“The text doesn’t belong to the image, so why make it outside of the image”
– Tony Chakar, incoversation with Charles Esche,
Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven, 17th February 2018
Celebrated Lebanese architect and artist, Tony Chakar presents two contrasting immersive installations at Van Abbe Museum Eindhoven that both merge, text, and instability of imagery, shown for the first time in Europe. Chakar lives and works in Beirut and since 1999 he has developed projects that address the complex social and political histories of his hometown and region.
He merges art and architecture as critical tools to create visual explorations that incorporate literature, philosophy, and theory. In this exhibition, two installations Of Other Worlds that Are in this One (2014-17) and The Discourse of the Last Things Before the First (2017) are located on the second floor of the museum, side by side they present viewers with contrasting immersive experiences of familiar images in everyday life and religious iconography.
The first is the installation Of Other Worlds that Are in this One (2014-17) was shown initially at the São Paulo Biennial in 2014 and has now recently entered into the Van Abbe museum’s collection. This work consists of a large metal wall placed at the back of the space with images of strangers taken from facial recognition software geolocating individuals in seemingly empty cityscapes visited by the artist. Splicing these images are texts on from esoteric writings – Muslim, Gnostic Christian and Kabballah mysticism laser cut out of the metal wall, and projected as light texts onto the back wall of the installation. Chakar’s installation interestingly connects these strangers to historic texts of a different era; some humorous, others heavy to create an immersion into a world of floating signifiers where time is out of sync. The viewer of the work engages in a game of light and shadow walking behind the installation to read these texts but encountering the inability to fully read as the body blocks the light when walking through this narrow corridor. In, The Discourse of the Last Things Before the First the opposite happens. The viewer enters into a gold-leafed cube with a dominant line drawing of a Madonna and child familiar from religious iconography. As opposed to standing at a distance from the icon, one is able to (although not everyone enters) walk into the seemingly sacred space to look closely at the image interrupted with texts on economics and value systems. The sacred and revered becomes one that can be confronted in a space that tests the limits of modernity.
As in a Beginning will be on view until 22 April 2018 is curated by Christiane Berndes and Charles Esche. Of Other Worlds that Are in this One was acquired with the support of the Stichting Promotors Van Abbemuseum.