THE LEBANESE PAVILION AT THE 59TH INTERNATIONAL ART EXHIBITION – LA BIENNALE DI VENEZIA

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Placed under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and organised by the Lebanese Visual Art Association (LVAA), the Lebanese Pavilion at the Biennale Arte 2022 presents the works of filmmaker and video maker Danielle Arbid – from the diaspora and based in Paris – and visual artist Ayman Baalbaki – who lives and works in Beirut – with scenography conceived by Aline Asmar d’Amman, architect and founder of Culture in Architecture.

The Lebanese Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale, curated by Nada Ghandour, illustrates the perpetual action of the human imagination on the reality of the world. In the exhibition The World in the Image of Man, fiction inspires and nourishes our daily lives. Its project invites us on a symbolic journey into the contemporary world through a theme, a city, and two artists, Danielle Arbid and Ayman Baalbaki, who maintain a political and aesthetic dialogue from a distance, by presenting artworks that are so far and yet so close.

Beirut, a cosmopolitan city, is the place where this borderless theme is embodied: all individuals of all cultures can interpret and appropriate it through their own perception.

Only art can make sense of the codes of our vision, transcribe them and have them echo in one form or another. Ayman Baalbaki’s monumental installation and Danielle Arbid’s video evolve between a mental image that has become reality due to Baalbaki’s plastic gesture, and a tangible reality that has become pure vision in the eye of Arbid.

Ayman Baalbaki, Janus Gate, 2021, matières mixtes, détail © Ayman Baalbaki
Ayman Baalbaki, Janus Gate, 2021, matières mixtes, détail © Ayman Baalbaki

The dialogue maintained with Beirut by the two artists reveals the increasingly heightened competition between the real and the virtual – a paradigm shift that has impacted our environment and our most diverse activities and that has created a place now common to all humanity.

Lebanon did not wait for the theorisation of globalisation to identify and experience its challenges: trade, consumption, financial woes, wars, mobility, among other difficulties. Lebanon has been crossed by both tradition and modernity and, since Antiquity, has been a major territorial challenge. As a pivotal point between the East and the West, it has repeatedly and reluctantly suffered from being the receptacle of a panoply of tensions coming from elsewhere and each time profoundly transforming the most accomplished work of man: the city.
More than ever, the political, economic and social unrest that Lebanon has been grappling with since 2019 is bringing Beirut, a martyred city and a potential city of the future, back before the eyes of the world.

Danielle Arbid and Ayman Baalbaki have chosen, as their artistic reflection and creation, the subject of the polysemic urban character of Beirut, at the heart of the upheavals of the global crisis and the emotional instability of a technologised relation to the world.

View from the Lebanese Pavilion - Photo by Federico Vespignani © LVAA
View from the Lebanese Pavilion – Photo by Federico Vespignani © LVAA

Danielle Arbid is presenting a video titled Allô Chérie and Ayman Baalbaki an installation titled Janus Gate. The political dimension of these two works is more than ever justified in light of the current situation in Lebanon. They both portray the contradictions and difficulties plaguing the country through their symptoms. The frantic race for money is inseparable from the violence raging in Lebanon today. Real estate speculation, which promises dreams, hides ruin and misleads as far as merchandise concerned. Anxiety over the economic and political implosion of Lebanon is becoming more and more tangible. With their own means, and walking on the rope of the eternal return, both bring to life the flesh of Lebanon in its chaos and beauty.

Ayman Baalbaki, Janus Gate, 2021, matières mixtes, détail ©Ayman Baalbaki
Ayman Baalbaki, Janus Gate, 2021, matières mixtes, détail ©Ayman Baalbaki
Danielle Arbid, Allô Chérie, 2015- éd. 2022, vidéo still © Danielle Arbid
Danielle Arbid, Allô Chérie, 2015- éd. 2022, vidéo still © Danielle Arbid

The exhibition The World in the Image of Man is taking place in one of the halls of the Venetian Arsenal, a classified historical monument.
The Pavilion’s scenography answers to the curatorial notion of dialogue, a central idea within this project.

Echoing the works by Danielle Arbid and Ayman Baalbaki, architect Aline Asmar d’Amman suggests a wander through the heart of Lebanon which: “takes the form of a brutalist elliptical shell evoking the eternal wish for rebirth and unity. The surrounding geometric form invites the works to engage in a dialogue of truths, facing each other, shortening the distances, as if engaged in an innate and natural conversation.”

Danielle Arbid, Allô Chérie, 2015- éd. 2022, vidéo still - Photo by Federico Vespignani © LVAA
Danielle Arbid, Allô Chérie, 2015- éd. 2022, vidéo still – Photo by Federico Vespignani © LVAA

The Pavilion’s raw architecture recalls the shapes of the contemporary ruins of the Lebanese urban landscape: Joseph Philippe Karam’s downtown cinema ‘The Egg’ and Oscar Niemeyer’s ‘Rashid Karamé’ international exhibition building in Tripoli.

This scenographic setting of approximately 150 m2, derived from the brutalist architecture that flourished in Lebanon as of the 1960s, echoes a walk through Beirut, through the eyes of Ayman Baalbaki and Danielle Arbid. The facade is covered with curved panels coated in a concrete texture, evoking the city, under permanent construction. The oculus of the Pavilion opens onto the magnificent framework of the Venetian roof, as an invitation to draw the gaze upwards.

Upon entering the Lebanese Pavilion, the visitor is first confronted with the work of Ayman Baalbaki, and then they are drawn to Danielle Arbid’s video projected directly on to the wall.

View from the Lebanese Pavilion - Photo by Federico Vespignani © LVAA
View from the Lebanese Pavilion – Photo by Federico Vespignani © LVAA

A scientific committee, through instances of reflection, exchange and discussions with the artists and the architect-scenographer, had an advisory role. Made up of national and international specialists, its purpose is to provide recommendations. This committee was composed by Jean-François Charnier Scientific Director at AFALULA Agency, Louma Salamé General Director of the Boghossian Foundation – Villa Empain, Brussels and Annabelle Ténèze, Chief Curator of Heritage and Director of the Abattoirs, Musée – Frac Occitanie, Toulouse.


The 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia:
April 23 – November 27, 2022
Professional Days: April 20 – 22, 2022

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