© Newsha Tavakolian
January provides a rude awakening from any residual Christmas torpor, as nearly half our monthly picks feature artwork from the war torn Middle East...
Mosa’ab Elshamy – Defiance: Two Years on from the Egyptian Revolution, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, from January 8
A show of photojournalism in Birmingham provides examples of defiance on both sides of the lens. Elshamy has been shot, arrested and had cameras confiscated; his subjects, meanwhile, square up to the Egyptian army and provide endless inspiration. A brave exhibition in at least two ways.
Gerard Byrne: A state of neutral pleasure, Whitechapel Gallery, London, from January 17
Irish artist Byrne once again turns his attention to the past in pursuit of work to open horizons in the present. This time he digs up a discussion on sexuality between members of the Surrealist group and also explores a provocative mission statement by minimalist Carl Andre. That's some contrast.
Jochem Hendricks, New Art Gallery, Walsall, from January 18
Midlanders should aim not to miss the final iteration of a touring show by German conceptual artist Hendricks. Expect to have your credibility challenged with wry humour and a mischievous relation to the tax man. (The artist has claimed the cost of a convertible sports car as art material on expenses.)
Transformism: Melanie Jackson and Revital Cohen, John Hansard Gallery, Southampton, from January 22
While science and tech come to form the dominant sphere of progress in human affairs, art which tackles both these spheres is not far behind. This two-handed show pulls together Jackson’s interest in Goethe’s notion of an originary Urpflanze plant, while Cohen looks at Japanese goldfish breeders.
Juergen Teller: Woo, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, from January 23
Teller made his name photographing celebrities, only to become a big name in his own right within the elitist pages of 90s style magazines. But fortunately, he now remains as credible as he is fashionable. And this show offers the chance to compare early commercial work with later personal projects.
Realism in Rawiya, New Art Exchange, Nottingham, from January 25
If you take nothing else from this, you might still learn that Rawiya means “she who tells a story” in Arabic. Indeed, narratives abound as the all-female photo collective proves as improbable as one of their subjects here: an all-female auto racing team from Palestine.
Caught in the Crossfire: Artistic Responses to Conflict, Peace and Reconciliation, The Herbert, Coventry, from January 25
Visitors to the Herbert will certainly get caught in the crossfire. Almost 40 artists offer competing perspectives on war and its aftermath. Notable inclusions include Blek le Rat and Banksy, who both remind us that conflict affects the man on the street. Let us hope 2013 is (relatively) peaceful.
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