Before the revolutions that filled the streets in many Middle Eastern countries during the “Arab spring”, another rather quiet revolution had been taking place in the region: that of modernising the Arabic and Persian script, its appearance, and the way it is written thanks to contemporary software and experimental visuals created by a new generation of skilled artists and designers. These “revolutions” are not unrelated, as much of the content and the messages of the Arab upheavals have been amply conveyed through written language, graphics, and illustrations—whether spread in the streets (graffiti, stencils, tags, banners) or through social media and the internet.
The project RIGHT-TO-LEFT focuses on what is currently happening in the Middle East in terms of visual culture and society. The exhibition features over 40 artists and graphic designers, and displays artworks, installations, and hundreds of posters, partly commissioned for the occasion of the Berlin show. The exhibited art and design works are both innovative and forward-looking, presenting cross-cultural references and styles ranging from experimental typography and type-design to street art and graffiti. They often merge Latin and Arab/Persian scripts in sensual, beautiful ensembles with multiple layers of meanings. Poetry, metaphors, and references to the present political situation in the Middle East are recurrently used in the designs.
The title of the project, RIGHT-TO-LEFT, simply refers to the writing direction of the Arabic and Persian script. The exhibition and its related publication examine the path the Arabic and Persian script is taking nowadays, spanning from the tradition of calligraphy and ornamentation to the current innovations of the modern Arabic and Persian typefaces. They offer insights into the creative potential and the visual cultures of the Arab world and Iran.