Marwan Rechmaoui, Studio Scene of Beirut Caoutchouc

WE’VE ASKED ARTISTS, ARCHITECTS AND DESIGNERS, PLUS ARCHITECTURAL STUDENTS FROM LAU, TO SHARE WITH US THEIR THOUGHTS AND IDEAS AS THEY RELATE TO THEIR FAVOURITE CITIES, UTOPIAN URBAN DESIGN AND VARIOUS LIFE EXPERIENCES. HERE ARE THEIR ANSWERS, ALONG WITH ORIGINAL WORKS THAT BEST REFLECT THEIR PASSION, CREATIVITY AND EMOTIONS.

Marwan Rechmaoui, Studio Scene of Monument for the Living

Tell us about the work you submitted and the medium you’ve selected. How does it represent you?

The work I submitted is called “Scenes from My Studio.” The medium is photography, selected for this issue of Selections magazine. The photographs show the studio in different moments, when I was working on different artworks. It is the microcosm that I have created, my own subjective utopia.

Marwan Rechmaoui, Studio Scene of Beirut Caoutchouc
Marwan Rechmaoui, Studio Scene of Beirut Caoutchouc

Which is your current city and how would you describe it?

I have been living in Beirut since 1993. I chose the Middle East as a destination after my studies in the United States, a sense of owing back to where I come from. After a tour in the region, I opted for Beirut, back then it was the end of the so-called “Civil War” and Beirut looked somewhat like a work in progress, a construction site that promises a certain development. Today Beirut resembles my studio, there are structures or artworks that came to be achieved and are laying in some corner of the space, whereas you can see a lot of leftovers of material resting on different tables here and there, waiting for something to happen, or for some process to shape them. I would like to imagine Beirut as an open studio where all the possibilities are there, an ongoing fluctuating wave of change.

Marwan Rechmaoui, Studio Scene of Blazons
Marwan Rechmaoui, Studio Scene of Blazons
Marwan Rechmaoui, Studio Scene of Deminer and Pillars experiment
Marwan Rechmaoui, Studio Scene of Deminer and Pillars experiment

Tell us a brief story that marked you in your current city. How would it have been different in your created city.

I have been fascinated with the building process that took place during the 1990s in Beirut. First they dig a big hole, exposing parts of earth for the first time in a million year, they discover archeology in some of these holes, meaning there was a life that took place in earlier periods, a dwelling has happened, then pillars start rising, and every few meters going up, a slab is casted to join the pillars together, then walls start appearing blocking a view forever, well almost forever, unless we face one more shake like the one that destroyed Beirut in 551 AD. Then the accessories start appearing on the façade and the interior: windows, doors, toilet seats, tiles, countertops, piping and electricity. Then the final stage before moving in is the furnishing process. The shaken urban planning in Beirut was spectacular, every other neighborhood followed a unique pattern that is hard to decipher or make sense of. In my studio, I revisited these structures, I tried to re-enact the construction process to understand what it is about Beirut that resulted in this laissez-faire.

Marwan Rechmaoui, Studio Scene of Blue Building
Marwan Rechmaoui, Studio Scene of Blue Building

Where do you position yourself in a world where culture is becoming global? And how does that affect your work?

I fully embrace it. I have come to terms with the fact that any city could be a good city to live in. I am not speaking about the “citizen of the world,” because I know what it is like to hold this passport versus that other privileged one. When I construct an artwork about a structure in Beirut, I am targeting not only this urban tissue. It could apply to another matrix happening in São Paolo for instance. In the algorithm of the human species, we tend to imitate as a first step, this leads to a lot of similarities, hence the global culture. The differences are minor if you look at the bigger picture, it would be something like in Mexico you have a dish with a grasshopper in it, while in Beirut or Paris, you can treat yourself to a snail appetizer. I am a strong believer in the attention to details and that these details are what make all the difference, so when I am working, I make sure that I am fully focused to resonate a certain observation and reproduce it to make the experience of the artwork worthwhile.

Marwan Rechmaoui, Studio Scene of Pillars
Marwan Rechmaoui, Studio Scene of Pillars

A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS #45

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SELECTIONS is a platform for the arts, focusing on the Arab World.

Selections editorial presents a quarterly print magazine and weekly online publication with high quality content on all subjects related to Art and Culture. Full of world-leading artworks, exquisite brand imagery, original creative illustrations and insightful written articles.
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