The exhibition Inhabiting the Interstices: Beirut, the Artists and the City is curated by Françoise Docquiert and Nayla Tamraz is in partnership with ARTER and on view at Galerie Michel Journiac. Here’s a guided tour through the exhibition.
If despair is indeed the death of all possibilities (Kierkegaard, The Sickness unto Death), since the disaster of August 4, 2020, Beirut has been living in a state of deep despair. A place of the unthinkable, all rationality failing to find reasons, this state is nevertheless something one cannot give up thinking.
We live in a time when the idea of the unthinkable has become familiar. It was originally used to describe what was not accessible to us: God or death. Today, the unthinkable is linked to our history. When experience is lacking to name things, at least one remains: that of disarray and ultimate helplessness, in a story that is now that of men.
How then to think and what to say about a reality like that of Beirut today when the words escape and run out. What narrative to build? What story to tell? Between the end of what was once, and the end of an open possibility, the present, this in-between, can only be considered in the same mode of impossible representation.
But at the same time, between what continues to exist and what is not yet, the city is a compendium of gestures that allow daily life, rituals that we no longer understand, and yet which allow time to be rethought. In this interstitial space in which one would have to imagine that it could reinvent itself, the city offers the beginnings of life.
Also,where thought fails to findmeaning, artmay be able to open up a spacewhere things are representable. How does he give understanding of what cannot be understood outside of him? How does he invite us to meet this state suspended between silence and words? To rethink the reality and the stories of our lives? To inhabit these interstices? This exhibition would like to narrate the possible encounter between art and the possibility of life.
More broadly in this world after, Beirut appears as a compendium of experiences, a concentrate of the world, a framework of interpretation. A paradigm. Living in the interstices is ultimately a posture that describes possible experiences in this time after.
Nayla Tamraz, Françoise Docquiert
Trembling Landscapes is part of Ali Cherri’s research through film, video, drawing, engraving and performance. Around a series of aerial maps representing Algiers, Beirut, Damascus, Erbil, Mecca and Tehran, this is an investigation into the effects of the disaster, both of origin human and geological – on his native Lebanon and its surrounding territories. Cities that Cherri has selected lie on active faults whose coordinates are marked in red. Insecurity of these landscapes goes hand in hand with the social and political unrest that characterises their locations. Cherri’s restricted cartographic schemes offer an alternative to explicit representations of the disaster by investigating geological fissures in the region.
Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige
The Trilogies series (2018-2021) initiated with the Unconformities/Discordances project reports a work of core drilling carried out on different sites in Lebanon, but also elsewhere, in Greece and France. What Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige do “by putting things back into longer time cycles”, they say, is a way of reinventing time. Temporality, with them, becomes vertical. These images offer a new, transversal reading of time. They testify the cycles of new beginnings that occur after disasters. Geology and archeology make it possible to account for this regeneration. There would thus be three ways of representing history: by the reconstruction carried out with archaeologists and geologists from core drilling, in respect for the temporalities they contain, through drawings made by archaeologists, prehistorians or natural history illustrators, or even by the story of what remains clinging to our memory.
Fady is a fighter who survived the Lebanese civil war. After lengthy discussions over the fights, he evoked an anecdote from his daily life: on his terrace, he had a cage suspended from the ceiling in which a canary lived. The terrace slabs were cracked by the force of the bombings. The canary dropped its food, which landed in the cracks of the flagstones, and thus found fertile ground to germinate and grow. Here I have sown canary seed in the cracks of a broken slab.
With these three large streamers of different dimensions – the flight of swallows is suspended between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., The tide is canceled on Saturday and Sunday, the accumulation of clouds is prohibited on weekdays – and a chocolate molding of Mont Hermont, 2018 – Marwan Moujaes diverts with poetry and derision the traditions that are still in place today such as limiting the movement of foreigners at certain times of the day and on certain religious occasions.
The video Narrative of Western exile is a story of an invitation. It is a journey from the shores of the Amazon to the top of the mountains of Machu Picchu, crossing the elements and the dimensions, pushed by this secret story written by the Persian poet Sohrawardi in the 12th century, whose mystical presence serves here as a guide and benevolent companion of fortune. We will make the trip on foot, by boat, by swimming or by any means, as long as we feel authorised to close our eyes, or to open them, as we please… On the way, the gaze encountered is not necessarily human, it is sometimes animal or quite other.
Narrative of Western exile, Video, 8 minutes 38 / Black and White / 2017. Editing by Benjamin Cataliotti Valdina. Music Jean Sébastien Bach, Interpretation at the Pianoforte by Nariné Simonian.
These three photographs present fittings of Hellenistic walls and floors in close-up, without a horizon. One of them was slightly damaged during the explosion in the port of Beirut. But beyond that, it is the look that has changed. Although they were exposed to danger and they seemed vulnerable but their qualities stood out: the sepia colour of the print. These unintentional fluctuations in the perception of these 3 photographs also have meaning. These 3 photographs are grouped together on a single support, forming a single piece. The dramaturgical unity of the perils constitutes the binder. The sepia colour is weighted by the frame. These formal and elementary intentional actions supplant the slight crack caused by the explosion.
D1-D3 Series of 3 Chromalux photo prints of 11.5 x 17 cm with rounded corners on White Matt aluminium, 1995 – 2019, artist’s collection
The two videos presented – A night in Beirut, 2006, 8 mins and Another night in Beirut, 2019, 20 mins – film “El Tabbal”, a man who passes through the streets with a drum at the time of the feast of Ramadan, with more than ten-year intervals. The artist presents the memory of rituals and familiar elements of Beirut about to disappear in a modern city.
Thomas van Reghem
The work Mon(t) Liban is inspired by the adaptation capacity of the Lebanese during the civil war, in which they made dozens of duplicates of their keys to allow each apartment to become a potential place of refuge. The original key matrix is that of a Beirut woman whose apartment was destroyed during the 33-day war. Despite the appearance manufacturer of this metal box containing 900 duplicates of this same key, upon opening, the work rather resembles an altarpiece containing hundreds of objects whose combination is sacred in order to create the connection with the lost world.
The exhibition is on view until the 5th of February.
The information is extracted from the press release.