In a nod to the world’s hottest storytelling platform – Pecha Kucha or “show and tell” – Selections has asked a number of artists and designers to talk about a specific project through imagery and an economy of words. The result is a simple yet engaging and visually captivating tale that sheds light upon the work whilst providing insights into the life and personal thoughts of each featured artist and designer. Passion and knowledge all wrapped into one.
Hady Sy was born in Beirut in 1964. His mother, a progressive Lebanese lady from a prominent family of civil servants, and his father, the first Senegalese ambassador to the Middle East region, succeeded in building a multicultural, open-minded family based on their strong humanistic values that determined the essence of Sy’s being and deeply impregnated his artistic world. Sy spent his early childhood living between Beirut, Cairo, Jeddah and Dakar. He was only nine when he tragically lost his father, which brought the rest of the family back to Beirut, directly into the turmoil of the Lebanese Civil War. In the midst of daily war horror and suffering, Sy finished high school and then studied Communication Arts at the Beirut University College in 1984. That same year, thanks to his French Senegalese citizenship, Sy was able to leave for Paris where he continued his studies at EFAP and joined a post-graduate programme DESS in political science at the Sorbonne. During the mid 1980’s, Paris was constantly under various terrorist attacks and Sy felt that the political violence, conflicts and bloodshed were pursuing him. Nevertheless, he settled there and started an ambitious career in the artistic and creative fields. In 1988 he founded the International Festival of Fashion Photography (IFFP), which he guided and developed as a creative director until 1998. That outstanding project became a true trendsetter for the fashion photography of the decade, encompassing the globe by taking place in a different city every year and bringing together the biggest names of the booming fashion industry, including designers, models and photographers such as Karl Lagerfeld, Paloma Picasso, Jean Paul Gaultier, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Frederic Mitterand, Jean Paul Goude, Helmut Newton, Juergen Teller, Terry Richardson, Mario Sorenti and many more.
The Wall of Hope
The location of Hady Sy’s Wall of Hope is highly symbolic. Erected in Downtown Beirut at the corner of Martyrs’ Square and Weygand Street, it stands on the infamous Green Line that used to divide the Lebanese capital’s religious communities during the 1975 war. It is also on the threshold of historic Beirut, near where one of the seven iron doors of the walled medieval city once stood. Yet the Wall of Hope does not gesture towards specific partitions, but to the symbolism latent in all such structures. Through a single transgression – a single blow to the fence – it symbolizes a vision of a world with no borders, resisting intolerance, hatred and fear, resonating with Beirut’s spirit of openness towards people, ideas and creation.
PH.D. SCHOOL OF ORIENTAL AND AFRICAN STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON
| WALL OF HOPE | NOT | WALL OF BARBED WIRES MY SCULPTURE BEHIND THE BARBED WIRES
IS HEART BREAKING. WHAT AN ABSURDITY
The Wall of Hope
Zero Dollar. A Sign of Time
In the world today, we use paper money without much thinking. A symbol of an unsubstantial entity, we tend to confuse paper money with real value. We believe it carries intrinsic value, although most of us would be hard pressed to define what that value is. Sy’s Zero Dollar confronts us with a conundrum. The American dollar bill, the familiar and ubiquitous world currency, displays a zero, a symbol of nothingness, the absence of value. A brilliant conceit, real in its materiality and reproducibility, it is a symbol without a referent, valueless and unsettling. The artist’s devalued dollar stands for a world gone awry, a world that has lost its moral compass, where money trumps all human values. Tapping into our collective reservoir of images, popular songs and expressions, and shifting from sombre to humorous, profound to light-hearted, he constructs powerfully evocative works that conjure up the role money plays in our lives. As a single dollar bill, or in stacks, stashed in pockets, suitcases, pillows and bags, as shadowy presence in our craniums, or growing on trees, the Zero Dollar, wistfully and with humour, builds a thematic on the pernicious role of money in our personal, social and political lives, and our value systems today. Corruption. Venality. Greed. Selfishness. Cruelty. Violence. Poverty. Wars. It is an unhinged, dystopian world, where a man stands upside down, his head buried in a pile of dollar bills. The scales of Justice tip under the weight of money; people die in their pursuit of happiness; medicine is a commodity; and wars and destruction are perpetuated with profits in mind. In a world saturated with images, Sy’s Zero Dollar endures in our imagination, less for its shock value, than for the ominous shifts and uncertainties it elicits. Zero Dollar is a fitting symbol of the time.
SIFR is a reflection on the role of money in contemporary society. SIFR investigates the global reverberations of the invention of the sifr/zero, in its political implications, its consequences on social issues such as immigration and gender relationships and the complex relationship between money, art and artists. This project took me four years. I started from Beirut. I always wanted to work on the role of money in our modern society through its relation with the arts. So I started with the zero (the null, the nothing). How this null, this nothing that we invented become the everything? It shows you the genius and the absurdity of the human being. So who invented this zero? It was first used by the Mayans. They used to draw a snail on the floor as a circle, and it used to represent the cyclic regeneration of life and death. This circle was then taken by the Indians, and they used it between the numbers to show more, for example: 105, 1,005, 10,005. Until it arrived to a brilliant scientist named Al-Khawarismi, the father of modern algebra. The meaning of Al-Khawarismi is Algorithm. He invented the zero known as sifr. The sifr travelled through the world (that’s why in French we say we use “les chiffres arabes”). It became sifer, then zefir, zefiro to our actual zero. So I went from local (Lebanon) to global. Since it is one of the countries in the world that is fully capitalistic. A society based only on money. Of course there is a kind of “spiritual snobbism” saying that money is not necessary for happiness. Of course it is. But in the lack and absence of some morals and values it can become a cancer.
UNIVERSITY OF HOLY SPIRIT | KASLIK
PH.D. HARVARD UNIVERSITY | DEPARTMENT OF THE HISTORY OF ART AND ARCHITECTURE
This image of colourful plastic garbage bags full of sifr dollars represents the crisis of garbage and the endemic corruption in Lebanon through all the colours of all the Lebanese political parties.
What is the value of money, dollar or Lebanese pound? Dependence or independence?
Who’s who? They put in front of us the money instead of the carrot in order to walk otherwise we won’t.
Viagra, Panadol, Aspirine, Prozac, Xanax. Big Business! Open 24 hours/7 days a week.
Money is protection, but at the same time you can be also a sniper.
Horrible! Why don’t we give the right education to women? So that they don’t have money, so that they don’t have freedom. Because men are afraid.
A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS, SHOW & TELL #51 PAGES 66 – 69.