Ahmad Ghossein, Caline Aoun, Lamia Joreige, Omar Fakhoury, Paola Yacoub, Rania Stephan, Raed Yassin, Talar Aghbashian,
Tamara Al-Samerraei, Stéphanie Saadé, Vartan Avakian
May 21 until Aug. 31, 2021
Presented by Marfa’ in Beirut
Marfa' is very pleased to finally reopen with a group exhibition titled Water.
Water brings together a group of artists from the gallery around a universal and unifying subject. Through water, we are all connected, physically as well as metaphorically.
This show features a wide range of media including film, photography, painting, sculpture and multi-sensory installation. Each artist represents this theme through their unique standpoint; bringing forth the poetic, the scientific, the political, the social and the overall versatile nature of water.
The show takes place in all the rooms of the gallery and is extended onto our street through an abandoned underground parking lot where we are screening Vartan Avakian’s Short Wave, Long Wave.
For more information about the exhibition and the works on view, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The Kinetics of the Invisible addresses the space we enter as not static or consistent and uses the gallery’s constantly flowing and evolving environment to create tangible forms from the otherwise invisible matters, which bear witness to changes and cycles.
A pipe hangs from the ceiling, in which a needle is attached that is artificially held below the freezing point. The sculptural work transmutes and makes visible the physical form of humidity in the space over the course of its installation by way of condensation produced by the humidity of the space that collects and freezes on its surface. A timer switches off the cooling of the needle at intervals so that the frozen water drips and accumulates inside a container, like rain before evaporating again, similar to the natural water cycle.
In Mythologies (1957), Roland Barthes evoked the joy that floods can provoke:
“Despite the difficulties or disasters it might have caused for thou- sands in France, the flood of January 1955 partook of festivity far more than of catastrophe. First of all, it displaced certain objects, refreshing our perception of the world by introducing into it certain unaccustomed and yet explicable points...Paradoxically, the flood has created a more accessible world, manipulable with the kind of pleasure children take in wielding their toys, exploring and enjoying them.”
Flooding is just one way earth overlaps with water. Water and land
are inextricably linked. But water only exists in relation to solids, from which it takes any shape or form, with the exception of droplets. In this work, sometimes solids give shape to the water; and at others, water gives shape to solids, like the currents that, for example, polish pebbles.
These overlappings present multiple games through their formal creations; even floods can be festive.
These photographs and sculptures capture the creation of forms – their morphogenesis – precisely like festive events.
The broken sides of a drinking glass are covered with gold leaf. The gold seems to emerge from the cut sides, as if the glass bled gold and as if we could see its inside, its real nature. The same way as one bleeds blood when wounded: what comes out of the wound is of different nature than what we see from the outside. And the only way to access this inside is through a cut, a breach, an alteration of the object's integrity. This opening gives us information about the object that we could not have otherwise. Instead of being used as an ornamental technique, the gilding here highlights the dangerous dimension of the object. A small beautiful weapon. As in other works by Saadé, the precious gold is associated with the damaged part of a worthless object (In Travel Diary, the gold is applied on the folds, the damaged parts of worthless printed papers).
"Second Nature’s most damaged part is gilded and given a second life. Its sharpest edges,
traces of an accident or a deliberate act of violence, become its asset.”
Replica pearls, transparent thread, variable dimensions
A necklace is made of 2832 pearls. This number corresponds to the number of days elapsed between the artist's birth and the official date of the end of the Lebanese war. The pearls beads used in this variant of the work have the iridescent appearance of mother-of-pearl, reminiscent of the aquatic world and its feminine symbolism. They follow one another and mimic the passing of days. The necklace hangs from the ceiling and gently falls to the ground in a shining puddle, the pearls become like dripping water drops.
Untitled is a photographic series that frames the city through its architectures of artifice. Colored panels and construction site barriers become the windows to a fantastical landscape beyond, or even in spite, of a massive program of neoliberal urban gentrification. A view of the sea becomes imbued with a green tint and a scene of rubble becomes distorted and oneiric as a city is laid out in saturated colors, simul- taneously radiant and melancholic.
A still image of a man running towards the sea. Very slowly, it becomes more and more pixellated, culminating in the illusion that the man has disappeared into the water. The work is a personal reflection on the estranged self, a meditation on the feelings of alienation that can overwhelm daily life, and make one begin to lose his sense of identity as his inner being gradually deconstructs itself.
The image is borrowed from an Egyptian film made during the 1980s, an evocation of the artist’s longing for cultural nostal- gia. In essence, the figure portrayed can be seen as the artist himself, giving his back to his home and audience, dissolving through the sea of pixels until he is no more. This poetic use of the digital video medium challenges the usual impression associated with it as being cold and devoid of human touch, something not imbued with the sentimentality of film reels, for instance. But the original image is actually an analog one, transferred onto digital VCD, and then manually processed to create the scene of destruction. Perhaps this unconventional method also means to comment on the loss of nostalgia for the physicality of media, as all media is now destined to coalesce under one roof: the digital pixellated experience.
The images come from my film Train-Trains 2. They are layered in time and space. They mix an old Egyptian black and white film, with footage I shot of the sea. They bear traces of the different formats and media they passed through over time: an archival film shot in 35mm, transferred onto Beta-Cam, the digitised in a DVD format, which I then ripped into a digital file along with the footage I shot on Video8, and then edited, superimposed, extracted and finally printed onto photo paper. I shot the film in 1999 and finished editing in 2017.
I remember John Berger:
a friend came to see me in a dream, from far away,
and I asked in the dream:
“- did you come by photograph or by train?”
all photographs are a form of transport,
and an expression of absence.
Vartan Avakian’s work stems from a reading of data as stains and scratches: as a series of inscriptions that exist in sculptural form and are fossilized over time. In this series Avakian examines a series of printed books from his library, to extract and bring to light their many hidden layers of incidental inscriptions. Through the life of a book, it collects intentional and accidental markings that render an otherwise generic and reproducible book into a unique archive. Avakian separates these layers from the book object, distills them and converts them into new sculptural fossils.
Behind the sea, when the weather was clear, stood a city with a high skyline and big structures. It looked like cities in films. Actually, it looked like New York in American films and TV series. I believed it was America.
“The artist constructs a hazy image to allude to the vague- ness and illusion of what’s in the distant horizon. He dreams it’s America, illusive and remote. The cityscape looks very much like New York in American films, or that’s what he imagines, as he observes from the school bus window across the bay as he’s being driven back and forth to school. And as time goes by he grows up to realize that what seemed so far away is just across the divided city, and what alluded to being across the sea is in fact the west side. Reality gradually stunts his daydreams as he himself is dwarfed by facts of life that surround him in this seemingly voiceless city. And it all unravels in meditative silence as he tries to comprehend his reality yet at the same time search for anonymity in this tangled and prejudice ridden place. ”
— Jack Parsekian
‘Nahr’ (The River) is the second chapter of “Under-Writing Beirut”. In this ongoing project, I look back, from the present, at the sociological, political and economic history of specific locations in Beirut in order to understand and produce narratives that are meaningful today and insightful into the past
This area, originally filled with factories and warehouses, built in the 40s, 50s and 60’s, has, since the mid-70s, been a derelict piece of land as it is manifested in its rundown factories, train station, as well as in illegal practices such as prostitution and criminality. It was one of the few remaining unexploited spaces in the capital and has recently witnessed a rapid transformation into a place of interest for art practitioners and high-rise residential development. The river, a dry dumping ground most of the year, acts as a suspended space, allowing me to explore notions of borders and landscape and
to reflect on the diverse migrant population that has historically settled along the its banks since 1915, as well as the current gentrification of some of these areas. While defining the eastern edge of the city, the river flowing weakly, both connects and separates Beirut and its suburbs, but as the city extends, this frontier becomes indeterminate. With the ambitious plans to rehabilitate the river, the ever-expanding city, and the influx of refugees and migrants, the future of the river is unknown, as is the coexistence of all the communities living there.
The drawings are based on various maps of Beirut. They depart from the topography of the river then grow organically to take abstract shapes, evoking flowers, bodily organs and cells. The short video is a single sequence shot filmed inside the dry river, combined to a voice over – a poetic account on exile and displacement.