Beirut Art Centre 

09.05.2018 – 18.07.2018

Vito Acconci · Richard Artschwager · Nairy Baghramian · Janette Laverrière

Marcel Broodthaers · William S. Burroughs · Guy de Cointet · Robert Wilhite · Claude Closky Baris Dogrusöz · Gheith al Amine · Jean-Pascal Flavien · David Hammons · Iman Issa 

Nesrine Khodr · Ali Meer · Pallavi Paul · Ieva Saudargaité · Natascha Sadr Haghighian 

Nicholas Bussmann · Roy Samaha


Space Edits, (The Trouble with Language), explores past and recent works in which the mechanics of language circulate within and extend into space, activating the connections between reading and inhabiting. The artists use of processes that embed language into visual art, through forms of encodings; distorted spoken games or spatial layouts; and through the materiality of printed text, verbal protocols, sculpture, films and performance.

Space Edits, (The Trouble with Language), guides us through the continuous exchanges between the verbal and the visual that have emerged through time. At the core is an historical installation ‘Ethiopia’, (1976) by French artist Guy de Cointet, an artist who had developed his practice using visual encodings in drawings, texts and props for theater performances.

Other artists focus on the pre-Surrealist moment when poetry was used to highlight a rift between language and meaning. Stéphane Mallarmé’s (1842-1898) radical assessment of the materiality of language inspired the Marcel Broodthaers (1924-1976) who translated Mallarmé’s poem into an abstract composition and Vito Acconci (1940-2017) whose walks and performances literally extended the page of his poetry into real space.

The recourse to language that occurred in the 1960s as a form of resistance to the commodification of the art object, is another theme explored here. David Hammons echoes the legacy of Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) with The Old Testament (2002) where he transforms Duchamp’s Catalogue Raisonné into everlasting data. Conversely, Claude Closky’s work entitled Words of Value Dictionary (2011) records the auction rates of artists’ works in which words are the main or only element; thereby critiquing the increasing commodification of art.

A number of artworks in the show use typography as a flexible material – akin to the cut-up techniques of the Beat Generation, while others employ the voice as a way to channel meaning in and out of the body. Many of them draw shared spaces, leaking out of their actual space to invade the imaginary with political and poetical aims.

The exhibition reminds us that art cannot be reduced to questions of taste or “correct” ideological positions. The process of art interpretation is presented as an active understanding of art that doesn’t limit itself to explanation but one that demands that the viewer takes risks, speculates, allows for playfulness and embraces the constructive qualities of uncertainty.