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Oliver Flexman: Making Plans for Friday

An exhibition exploring identity, cultural stereotypes and exchanges, which affect our perceptions and engagement with the Middle East.

Event details

The Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies is hosting the first solo exhibition of a new body of work by artist Oliver Flexman. The title takes its cue from an idea in the Arab World that dreams on Friday night are imbued with a particular significance and good fortune.

Making Plans for Friday is one of a pair of concurrent exhibitions by artist Oliver Flexman, spanning two locations in Exeter during Summer 2012.

Flexman’s work explores themes of identity, place and the relationship between the West and the Arab World through a variety of media including video, objects, print, drawing and painting. The work investigates the stereotypes and social preconditioning that governs our perception and engagement with the Arab World.

Making Plans for Friday follows a year-long studio residency at Exeter Phoenix and ongoing cooperation with the University’s internationally renowned Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies (IAIS). Engaging with our sense of identity, Flexman considers how the stories and products pervasive in both Western and Arab societies act upon the way that both cultural spheres understand each other.

Making Plans for Friday, includes several pieces that look at the use of Western visual cultural influences on the Middle East alongside pieces that question the role of Orientalism and its continuing effect on perceptions of the Arab World from the West. Flexman will exhibit new works including Everyone Knows the Orient, which explores text from Arabian Nights and prints Aladdin Ink and Genie’s Polish, which look at the historical translation of Arab identities into branding and products in the West. Another work that looks at modern products and our visceral relationship with written Arabic, is a series called Care Labels. In which Arabic text taken from product packaging readily available on the UK highstreet is enlarged and painted or embroidered onto large black cotton sheets.

Flexman’s work is predominantly concerned with how the world defines itself both in relation to others and through the effect of context on universally pervasive objects, situations and desires.

Featured alongside the exhibition will be work by students at the University of Exeter who have worked with Flexman in independent workshops run in collaboration with the University of Exeter Art Society. The students will produce images based upon the 1924 film Adventures of Prince Achmed by Lotte Reinger, which will be screened at Exeter Phoenix on the 2nd August. The film based on the Arabian Nights has connections to Flexman’s own work. The students will use photographs depicting the modern Middle East, taken by other students from the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies on their year abroad, as a starting point, finally creating an Orientalist-style images inspired by Reinger’s film, adding elements of mysticism and otherworldliness to vistas of the contemporary Middle East.

The Street Gallery welcomes further engagement with audiences and will provide a feedback area where individuals can note their own reactions to the exhibition and reflect on their own experiences of the Middle East. A printed exhibition guide is available in the space.

An introduction to the exhibition from the artist will be held on 10th May at 6pm

More details on the department website and

A concurrent exhibition, Operations in the Contact Zone, runs at the The Phoenix Gallery, at the Phoenix Centre from 20 July – 31 August 2012 with a preview on the 19 July 2012, 6‐8pm.

Oliver Flexman was born in 1978 in the UK and lived for a period of his childhood in the Middle East. He now lives and works in Devon. He has participated in projects and residencies across Europe and was an Arts Council Fellow in 2006. Selected exhibitions include Casino Luxembourg, Lab Gallery Dublin, SWG3 and Market Gallery Glasgow.

This body of work is supported by a grant from Arts Council England, and is a collaboration between Exeter Phoenix, the University of Exeter Arts & Culture Department and University of Exeter Art Society members.


Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies