Sunday, October 24, 2010

Buzzing And Blocked Ears

The Lebanese

study Pascal Hachem is located east of Beirut, in the district Gemmayzeh. Constantly threatened by demolition, the area is a picturesque mix, developed under the Ottoman Empire, during the French mandate (1920-1943) and subsequently influenced by modern architecture. A maze of trendy bars, boutiques and restaurants. Hachem explains that Beirut is a noisy city "The sounds of war have been replaced by the noise of building sites. The city of the past is completely gone." His study, by contrast, is a haven of peace and order. One wall is covered by a series of traps for mice. Ancient hammers purchased in Cairo are on a work table. On his computer there are projects in Zurich, Bern, Rome and London, a city where it is going to inaugurate its first solo exhibition in the gallery of the Tunisian Feriani Selma has always been attentive to the North African and Middle Eastern art scene.
Designer by training, his work includes the construction of machines bizarre, performance and photography, public space interventions. Last July in Rome in 2000 has exhibited an installation composed of brackets arranged in concentric circles, oriented towards a central pot, at the pyramid Gaius Cestius. The disturbing swing del'installazione - explains the artist - gets a perverse reality: who is responsible for world hunger is often the same that feeds the war.
the question "What gives you Beirut?" Hachem has a ready answer: "voltage. It 's the main source of inspiration for my work."
The contradictions experienced by Hachem are the same as an entire generation of artists, grew up in a city halfway between the total collapse and a wild rebirth. The daily war against the urban chaos - a city in constant transformation, permanentemenre congested traffic and the constant political instability - is measured with a fear of long-term tensions with Israel South on the border
Over the past 20 years, despite a total absence of state support of public galleries or exhibition spaces non-profit organization, has developed a viable alternative infrastructure for those who want to make and exhibit art in Beirut. A small number of artists and curators, in fact, subsidized by private funds, are able to create a creative vanguard capable of attracting attention to international attention. The renowned art collective
Shkal Alwan, the Arab Image Foundation , Irtijal are just some of the institutions that have helped to encourage critical debate with other leading independents in the Middle East and North African region. Also some galleries Private encouraged ambitious artistic projects bringing them to international fairs. Sandra Dagher and Lamia Joreige direct the Beirut Art Center, a non-profit public space opened in 2009. Saleh Barakat Gallery of Agial , Dagher has edited together the first Lebanese pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2007. Andrée Sfeir-Semler in Berlin since 1985, opened in 2004 a large exhibition space in the old industrial district of Beirut.
When the international art community has begun to turn its attention to the Middle East a decade ago found in Lebanon a reality already mature and rapidly evolving ready to deal with artists with fairs, festivals, exhibitions and residencies abroad. And 'the last generation of artists who Selma Feriani is promoting in his London gallery, where the staff Hachem will follow two other exhibitions respectively Ninar Esber and Ziad Antar .
Until 1975, Beirut was an important center of tourism, finance and trade, a vital link in the Mediterranean to the Arab intellectual world. The varied cultural heritage of Lebanon gathers influences of various Christian and Muslim denominations and has spread worldwide through a rich diaspora. A social and cultural life makes so sophisticated Lebanon Middle Eastern countries a more "accessible" to the West.
Paradoxically, it was especially the 15 years of violent civil war - between 1975 and 1990 - to stimulate the development of visual arts in Lebanon. Before that time, three generations of artists have grown up under siege. For the first generation of artists, offer a witness the tragedy was a reason for creative survival. The second generation, which came out in the open in 1990, but the conflict has grown both inside and in exile has built its identity in a country that was recovering from the trauma of civil war. Promoted by curator Christine Tohme - one of the founders of Ashkal Alwan - it is strongly dall'approccio conceptual artists who prefer the video photography, public installations. Among the artists of this generation one of the best known internationally is Walid Raad, who has been a dedicated staff from Whitechapel Gallery.
The third generation, that of Hachem and other emerging artists born in the late seventies or later, is distinguished by a Cast in a more optimistic spirit. These are the artists who in 2006 saw the fragile infrastructure of their country destroyed again by a clash with Israel that lasted 34 days. The challenge of these artists has been and continues to be to escape the war, not only as a nightmare but as a "cage" set to work from their preconceived expectations of an international audience. Nina Esber, a video artist and performer grew up in Paris, but returned to Beirut in January insisted that "The war in Lebanon has nothing to do with my work, which follows a rather universal feelings such as fear, anxiety, the sense of loss. " Ziad Antar, an artist working with photography and video, also formed partly in Paris and partly in Lebanon also eschews the easy classification, which is the only concession to those who want to see a link between the political situation his country and his art is on humor that pervades the latter, to be understood as moment of hope: "Sadness is easier, the irony is a much tougher challenge."

- Adapted from "Lebanon's art scene", by Emma Crichton-Miller, Financial Times, October 8, 2010

Read the original article on The Art Reader


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