Collective art exhibition offers glimpse of modern Lebanon | Mimoza Al-Arawi

Several artists are organizing a collective exhibition at the Janine Rubeiz art gallery in Beirut.

The exhibition, which will run until the end of June, includes works by seven artists with different artistic styles, namely Joseph Harb, Adlita Stephan, Alan Fasoyan, Ahmad Ghaddar, Elissa Raad, Christine Kattaneh and Maha Yammine.

Usually, group exhibitions, especially those held at the end of the artistic season, are presentations of emerging artists who have the opportunity to present their works for the first time. At other times, these exhibitions are more like a summary of the artistic activity presented by the gallery during the past season. This is not the case with the current exhibition presented by the prestigious Janine Rubeiz gallery.

The artworks vary from video presentations to paintings, sculptures and other works of art. They depict the hellish atmosphere of the human condition in a place called Lebanon.

The visitor will not find warm colors in this exhibition, just extremely frosty hues. It is an infernal freeze, which is above all psychological.

In every country, wars happen and corruption happens. Some countries are occupied and others are suffocated by crises. In Lebanon, all this happened but with a high degree of surrealism and absurdity, which art attempts to capture.

The press release accompanying the exhibition is filled with fragmented ideas and broken expressions that echo the sonic explosions, the sharpness of the blades.

The statement speaks of “barking humanized dogs and body parts bereft of humanity”. He mentions the chaos that “reigns supreme and overwhelms the ability to create art outside the logic of the absurd”.

Poetic description is often exaggerated, but not in this case. We don’t know if the snapshot of modern Lebanon he suggests is sufficient to justify and explain what is displayed in the room.

More than 30 years have passed since the end of the Lebanon war, at least officially. Then a few years passed in which the Lebanese felt that perhaps they were facing a new future and a new life, unaware that their numbed memory, as well as the general amnesty that whitewashed criminals, had to naively Convince them of the end of the war before the demons wake up again. The demons multiplied over the next few years, becoming more ferocious and sophisticated.

Then came the so-called Lebanese Revolution, which sparked an uprising of consciousness, which included all ages and all social segments of society. After that, disasters and traumas of all kinds followed. Dreams were revived dozens of times before perishing on the altar of corruption and crime. Now they have all become deeply rooted and resilient, requiring courage and perseverance to eradicate their manifestations. But until that happens, one can contemplate the works of art that throw erratic notions into the air like delirium.

Among the artists participating in this exhibition is Joseph Harb, who presents a plaster sculpture of a human foot standing by itself and stripped of its natural walking ability.

The artist Christine Kattaneh presents an animated film and printed artistic works in which she plays on the theme of the house.

Elsewhere in the gallery, artist Elissa Raad exhibits three oil paintings and 12 photographs. They are images of the self that morph and change and remain blurred in meaning, more than in form and appearance, reflecting the nothingness of death in all its forms.

Ahmad Ghaddar presents a group of works entitled “Inflation” and covering the worsening of the economic crisis whose figures are extremely absurd and mercurial.

Adlita Stephan, presents very poetic and eloquently arranged writings hung on one of the walls of the gallery, entitled “He knew” in reference to the political context of the explosion of the port of Beirut in 2020 and the responsibility of a specific political figure who is emphatically supposed to have been aware of the presence of ammonium nitrate which blew up Beirut.

Alan Fasoyan presents kinetic sculptures and interactive art installations featuring several dogs referencing the recent massacre of stray dogs in Lebanon. It refers to all the other massacres that took place and are still taking place every day in Lebanon.

Maha Yammine presents a videotape of five people playing cards, a game the Lebanese have been playing for years. The game continues for hours, during which players are immersed in various conversations at the height of the absurd.

Time passes in the gallery. It flows before our eyes and seems to have a numbing if hellish effect.

Christopher S. Washington