Nabil Kanso is the first Middle Eastern artist to surface outside, if not against the framework of colonialism. He presents a unique view of his and other cultures. The thrust of the new uncolonized and its decolonizing effects is difficult to judge, as this movement is just becoming now identifiable. Kanso not only has the ability to present an uncolonized view of the Middle East (and therefore is not culturally dislocated), but a multi-cultural view of the world as well as. I believe this to be true not only by virtue of his education, travel experience and interpersonal relationships, but most of all by his paintings.
Through his paintings, Kanso demonstrated the institutional breakdown by exposing power structures, penetrating them and ultimately deconstructing them and revealing their impotence. In The Door, he introduces a “juridico-discursive” notion to power, which is based on the rigors of legal logic and death. The authority figure (judge) mounted on a horse in the upper center of the painting plays the role of legislator in whom the pure form of power resides. In a negative relation power can do nothing but say no, as is evidenced by the three decapitated men on the left who are literally an example of the conjunction of legalism and death. The executioner who stands in the doorway above the decapitated figures is the intermediary, and at first glance gives the impression that he carries out the law, when in effect when “confronted by a power that is the law, the subject who is constituted as subject - who is subjected - is he who obeys”5. Though the executioner too is subjected by his own obedience, the artist has revealed to us through the expression of horror on the executioner's face that ultimately the juridico-discursive system of repression is not all-pervasive. The door in the painting is always an alternative and coupled with knowledge (the man clutching the book to the left of the executioner) is a schematic of power-knowledge relationship as incorporated in the book, which was at first a vehicle for religion and eventually a Bible for technology. Everywhere in the painting there is the dynamics of transformation, rather than static forms of distribution and knowledge.
The mounted horseman is the legislator, judge, sentencer an executioner; the man with the book is authority because he holds knowledge which alludes to a way other than the juridico-discursive system that depends on repression and negation; the horrified man with his hands thrown in the air is the executioner victim, the observer.
1. Edward W. Said, Orientalism, p. 259, Vintage Books, New York, 1979.
2. Ibid., p. 195
3. Ibid., p. 275
4. Ibid., p. 275
A term that developed as a result of American Orientalism.
5. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, p.85, Vintage Books, New York, 1978.
6. Ibid., p. 94
7. Ibid., p.95
8. Ibid., p. 147
9. Ibid., p.123
10. Ibid., p. 141
11. Ibid., p. 143
12. Ibid., p. 117