Beirut eludes singular, homogenous and totalizing representations. In this exhibition, the city is introduced through fractured but complementary views, or viewpoints, possibly the most accurate way of fleetingly capturing its immense complexity. The exhibition presents media works that speak to the intertwined geographic, political, social, historical and cultural dimensions that constitute the contemporary life of this important urban centre at the heart of Southwest Asia.
While Beirut, Lebanon, and the whole region can only be depicted through open-ended, fragmented and plural perspectives, the works in this exhibition share a common denominator: the artists’ keen perception of the cyclical nature of some of the adversities that the city has experienced, or their employment of particular repetitive gestures. The repetition detected in their time-based works echoes the numerous attempts to verbalize commentaries about Beirut, and reflects the shimmering refractions of these kaleidoscopic glimpses, together conveying an incomplete and transitory impression of the city. Duplications, re-enactments, returns; with videos endlessly playing on a loop, an eerie déjà vu begins to emerge, as though repetition is also inadvertently a way of working through the traumas—some of which apparently self-perpetuating—carried by Beirut.
The title of the exhibition is borrowed from a text by theorist-artist Jalal Toufic on the philosophical notion of “eternal recurrence,” and how catastrophes bring human will into question because while harrowing events keep happening, no one ever wills their recurrence into existence. The participating artists do not necessarily pass judgment about Beirut, its repetitions, or how coming to terms with the cyclicality of certain phenomena could perhaps create a new consciousness that might begin to change the course of history. But to observe their replications is to recognize parallels between a past and a future entangled in a difficult present. It is also to discern patterns, in an otherwise cacophonous reality resistant to interpretation, and to contend with the resistant intensity of a city that straddles multiple worlds.
Beirut: Eternal Recurrence is the inaugural exhibition in a series of projects featuring cities from around the world, each seen through the eyes of contemporary artists.
Ziad Antar, Marwa Arsanios, Ali Cherri, Batoul Faour, Sirine Fattouh, Mona Hatoum, Lamia Joreige, Lynn Kodeih, Walid Raad / The Atlas Group, Stéphanie Saadé, Jayce Salloum and Akram Zaatari
Amin Alsaden, Jason St-Laurent and Amar A. Zahr
Press release from SAW Centre