Middle East North Africa

In 2010 Tom Bogaert moved to Amman, Jordan. He began to produce a body of work that draws from his experience as a foreigner living and working in the Arab world.

This chapter features a selection of artworks that Bogaert made before, during and after the events of the Arab Spring in Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria.


Observance (2018)
Web based project.

‘Observance’ examines the relevance and position of ‘The International UN Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People’ vis-à-vis other UN-organized days such as the World Braille Day, the World Tourism Day, and the International Day of Happiness.

Commissioned by Qalandiya International IV – The 2018 Palestinian Biennial in Jerusalem.


Foam (I’m gonna live forever) (2017)
Shredded foam filling and firecrackers, performance, and video.

Partial explosions of bags of multi-coloured foam pieces. Tom Bogaert was in Algiers during the days leading up to Mawlid, the birthday of the prophet Mohammed, when traditionally firecrackers are sold throughout the city.

‘Foam (I’m gonna live forever)’ offers thematic cues of martyrdom, fame, and coincidence. Bogaert used following firecracker brands: Mergeza, Cheitana, TNT, Fleur, and Camouflage. 

The project premiered at Espaco Gallery in Algiers, Algeria in November 2017.


One two three, viva l’Algérie (2017)
Performance and video.

For ‘One two three, viva l’Algérie’ Bogaert used a home-made air powered device and firecrackers to create the illusion of bloody gunshot impacts on buildings in Algiers.


The One Invented, Twisted Animator (2015)
Photos and accessories.
Installation view Maison de la Culture - Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia.

This work consists of seven photos, battery-operated Christmas lights, used picture frames, plastic flowers, and a decorative hook.

Bogaert borrowed the titel from a refrain in the song ‘Firestarter’ by The Prodigy. This title references the catalytic action of the Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi - whose self-immolation arguably triggered the Jasmine Revolution, and the subsequent Arab Spring.

This project was first presented at the Maison de la Culture in Mohamed Bouazizi’s hometown of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia.


pepsi, cola, water?
Screenshots from 09:18 video.

‘pepsi, cola, water?’ is a short experimental award-winning documentary about the Arab Spring of the early 2010s seen through the lens of Sun Ra’s legendary visit to Egypt in 1971.

Jazz pioneer and philosopher Sun Ra had a deep fascination with outer space and ancient Egypt. Computer animation, archival footage, and music from Sun Ra are interwoven to create a recreation/celebration of the events of the Arab Spring and Sun Ra’s mythical visit to Egypt.

The result is a film as far out as Sun Ra himself and can be viewed on request.


‘Monument’ 1 for Sun Ra (2014)
27 tanning lamps, mechanical timers.
Installation view, Medrar for Contemporary Art in Cairo, Egypt.

‘Sun Ra in Egypt’ is a research project based on the life and work of Sun Ra. A constellation of works includes performances, lectures, installations, videos, sculptures and a related publication.

Taking Sun Ra’s visit to Egypt as its starting point, the related works playfully weave his legacy through the framework of pop, minimalist, and conceptual art of the 60s & 70s New York scene.

The project premiered at Medrar for Contemporary Art in Cairo, Egypt in May 2014.

VOYAGE, VOYAGE (2013 - 2017)

Voyage Voyage Video (2015)
by v5mt 00:33

‘Voyage, voyage’ aims to formulate responses to the art world’s romantic appropriation of the discourse surrounding exodus, freedom of movement, immigration, refugees, cosmopolitanism, and nomadism. This project deals with radicalism through the figure of the strawberry plant; a radicant bound to endless voyage.

Tom Bogaert taught himself to grow strawberries in a community garden. He conducted a series of botanical and artistic experiments on the plants, testing claims that they would survive after their first roots had been severed. Bogaert then developed this research at The Ultra Laboratory and Galerie Fatma Jellal in Casablanca, Morocco, and the Kamel Lazaar Foundation in Tunis, Tunisia.

Voyage Voyage / It's Grim Up North (2017)
Soundtrack 02:33
Album cover 31 x 31 cm.

This soundtrack pays tribute to all the Arab women and men who left for the north. ‘It's Grim Up North’ is a 1991 single by The KLF - an electronic band from the British rave scene. In this track, a pounding industrial techno beat is juxtaposed against a list of English towns; Tom Bogaert replaced the lyrics of ‘It's Grim Up North’ with a list of Arabic names.

This becomes the official soundtrack of ‘Voyage, voyage’. The track is available via Tunisia's online platform for the Venice Biennale. Commissioned by the Kamel Lazaar Foundation (KLF) in Tunisia.


And Did Those Feet
Vinyl and cold cuts.

In this installation, 35mm slide photographs are projected onto vacuum packed slices of Siniora chicken luncheon. The photos depict the 1970’s rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP), and the soundtrack features the band’s cover of the hymn ‘Jerusalem’. Siniora chicken luncheon is an icon of 1970’s Palestine. For a generation, it is synonymous with Jerusalem, and the rose-colored slices of processed meat.

Commissioned by Al-Hoash Gallery in Jerusalem for the exhibition ‘And Did Those Feet’ in June 2012.


Minecraft Mausoleum (2011)
Performance and video 05:03

In this performance in Beirut, Lebanon, Tom Bogaert replaced broken glass curb markers with exact copies – made of ice.


Cracked Windshields (2011)
English version
74 x 100 cm.

Bogaert salvaged cracked windshields from car scrapyards in Beirut and transformed them into maps of the city.


Ant Farm Nablus (2011)
Installation view Al-Aswad house, Al-Yassmineh in Nablus, Palestine.
Light box, jars, ant gel, food coloring, live ants.

‘Ant Farm Nablus’ addresses the problems inherent in academicizing, aestheticizing and glorifying contemporary warfare. For this, Tom Bogaert examines the theme of ‘inverse geometry’ a so-called ‘high concept spatial technique’ used by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in their 2002 offensive against the Palestinian resistance in Nablus and described by Eyal Weizman in his ‘Walking Through Walls’.

The starting point for ‘Ant Farm Nablus’ is a map of the old city of Nablus made of translucent ‘agar-agar’ – a vegetarian gelatin substitute. The map functions as an ant farm as the gel serves as both habitat and nutrition for the ants. This allows the viewer to watch the ants turn the gel map into a colony of tunnels. ‘Ant Farm Nablus’ at this stage depicts what it means to be able to bend space to your own particular navigational, political, religious, and military needs.

Installation for the 2011 ‘Between Ebal and Gerzim’ exhibition produced by the Birzeit University Museum and ArtSchool Palestine.

SYRIA OBJECTS (2010 - 2011)

Tumbling E Eye Chart (2010)
Printed plexiglass mounted on lightbox.
20 x 20 cm.

Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad is a British-trained ophthalmologist. The eye doctor’s tumbling E eye chart is the alpha and omega of ‘Syria objects’. Does Dr. Bashar still dream about tumbling Eye Doctor E charts and the course for Syria they might chart: left, right, up or down?

The project premiered in Aleppo, Syria in August 2010.

Watertanks (2010)
Welded galvanized steel water tanks mounted on metal stand
Tank: 60 x 60 x 60 cm
Stand: 200 x 80 x 60 cm

A series of water tanks are installed on the roofs of Damascus. These are three-dimensional renderings of the uppercase E that is depicted in the medical eye chart.

Minecraft Mausoleum (2010 - 2011)
Online video game and video (04:14)

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is known to be a computer geek. He used to be chairman of the 'Syrian Computer Society' and opened up his country to the internet in 2001. Minecraft Mausoleum utilizes Minecraft - an online building game - as context and medium to present a model for a Mausoleum for president Bashar.

Soundtrack: 'Song for Lenin' from the CD 'Best of Communism, selection of revolutionary songs. Hungaraton Records 1997

ARIEL (2010)

Ariel (2010)
Installation view in Birzeit, Palestine.
200 x 150 x 100 cm.
Washing powder boxes, metal wire, plastic rods, and washing powder.

On the occasion of a visit to the Israeli settlement of Ariel in Palestine, Tom Bogaert bought boxes of Ariel washing powder in the local supermarket. He then used the boxes combined with everyday detritus to construct a makeshift sculptural settlement in Birzeit. The construction was presented on a bed of white washing powder.

Made during a Triangle Arts & Al-Mahatta Gallery residency in Birzeit, Palestine.


Meringues made with Ariel washing powder.


Installation view at Makan Art Space in Amman, Jordan.
4 x (70 x 90 cm)
Metal, carpaint, and plastic lettering.

Kompressor features waxed down strips of car body metal in the colors of the flag of the Arab Revolt, with sections of the Mercedes-Benz ‘kompressor’ logo affixed to each. This piece explores intersections between enlightened absolutism and badges used by Mercedes-Benz for their supercharged engines.


Jordan Cucumber Poster (2010)
Acrylic paint and tape on fresh cucumbers.
24 x (12 x 3 cm)

‘The Jordan Option’ refers to a situation by which Palestinians are forced to migrate to Jordan in order to acquire freedom as citizens. Khalid Mishal, a leader of Hamas jokingly dubbed this situation the ‘Jordan cucumber’ since the Arabic word ‘khiyar’ translates as both ‘option’ and ‘cucumber.’ This wordplay becomes the starting point for the Jordan Cucumber project. It consists of painted rotting cucumbers, a translucent greenhouse, and a video.

The cucumbers were made during a residency at Makan Art Space in Amman, Jordan in 2010.