…and The Living is Easy (2007)
Video and Text
In Torino café, Lina wonders why there are so many flies. Almost effortlessly, I reply to her: Because of the dead bodies. I shudder at my own joke.
We hear one of the customers nagging to his friend: Why so many flies today?
I look around me. There really are a lot of flies. One of the customers suggests we light a candle to get rid of them. Nadim notices a fly screwing another. The electricity is out. Some are fanning themselves with coasters.
I run into Raja. He tells me he was in the Southern Suburb today. He say: Man, it’s Hiroshima … Hiroshima.
Abla returns to give me the phone number of a man who could transport my grandmother and cousin Fatima from the South to Beirut. I write down his number in my phonebook.
I wonder: will my grandmother agree to leave the South? I doubt it.
It seems I was thinking out loud, because Lina suggests that we give her a shot to make her sleep, and then bring her to Beirut. She cannot stay there with Fatima with all the danger.
I agree with her.
Life is actually beginning to return to the capital! Cars and people, salesmen and noises. It seems like we are not living a war. I say “it seems” to insist that there is nothing normal about the town. Everything “seems”, alludes, conceals, maybe lies.
I don’t know if the war happened or not. It seems we are living a dream. The war did not end, and yet life is cautiously returning to the city. How quickly we adapt. This time I will not adapt to the situation. I will not resist through living… I will not go swimming at the Sporting club, I will not prepare a new art project, I will not check my emails at work… I will live this war in anguish. I will be afraid. I will fear unto death.
I walk alongside the Sanayeh garden. I look through the iron fence and see the refugees scattered around it. I peer intently, checking out the conditions of the displaced. Some tents are set up inside the garden; in one of its corners sponge mattresses are piled up; laundry is left to dry on tree branches; a man is conversing with a covered lady; a narguileh is made ready at the corner of a tent; children are playing; a woman is lying on her left side, sleeping, her face covered by a soft white scarf, her feet naked. Four men are playing cards, three of whom are wearing cotton sleeveless undershirts, the fourth one topless. Some kids are gathered around them, following the game.
I ponder on how the scene will be at night. Where will the women sleep, where will the men sleep? Will a husband sleep beside his wife? What will a young man do if he wanted to caress his beloved?
Suddenly, I realize that I am peeping into the lives of these people. I realize that the public garden is public no more, but has turned into a private garden with its hallowed space, which I, inadvertently, was breaching.
The public garden had become private homes with no windows or doors, and without clear limits. But the dwellers know the limits of their homes well. As for us, the passers-by and the prying, we should from now own realize the limits of our eyes and gazes.
Slow, and violent in its slowness, is this film. We watch The River for the director Tsai Ming-Liang. A young man lives with his mother and father in the same house, yet each is on their own. Three dwelling under the same roof, living in “absolute” solitude. And then events begin clarifying and complicating at once. A film noir. And five minutes before the end of the film, the electric current is cut, and the image disappears.
Beirut is in deep blackness. I say Beirut is now black. Black with all the meaning of the word.
I can hear the sound of planes circling in the Beirut sky. I look to the sky. Nothing. Only the sound. A sound with no image. The planes are too high up to be seen. I think that the sound is definitely audible, but who can assure me the planes are really up there, circling in the sky. Could it not be merely a sound, with no actual plane? A recorded sound Israel is broadcasting in the direction of Beirut, through special speakers and satellites in the sky? We hear their sounds and believe them to be above us while in reality nothing is there…
Morning. I drink Nescafé with milk and begin reading “A History of Madness” by Foucault.
Lina is watching television. There is news of an Israeli incursion into Lebanese territories. A mass burial in the city of Sour. Demonstrations fill Arab countries. Israeli air raids are renewed on Lebanese villages.
I cannot concentrate on my reading. I decide to drink coffee with Lina, after having finished drinking Nescafé. I also decide to pick a sentence by Foucault and cite it here:
“Victory is neither for God nor the devil, but solely for madness.”
…and The Living is Easy (2007)
21 videos and texts
Concept and production: Lamia Joreige & Rabih Mroué
Videos: Lamia Joreige
Texts: Rabih Mroué
On July 11, 2006 Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers on the border of South Lebanon. On July 12, Israel took this operation as a pretext and attacked Lebanon launching a war which lasted 33 days, killed 1190 civilians, displaced more than 1.000 000 Lebanese, and destroyed the whole infrastructure of the country from North to South. Israel imposed a full blockade on the population. All or almost all the regular activities in the country were interrupted, and Beirut the capital was deserted for 33 days. During those 33 days, Rabih Mroué wrote his diary on his little blue notebook and Lamia Joreige filmed her diary with her little black handy-cam, both recounting each in their way, their daily life and impressions.
‘…and the living is easy’ shows some fragments of these two types of diaries that were assembled together day by day, starting from July 23 (eleven days after the war began) until August 12, (2 days before the war ended). The installation presents 21 texts and 21 video sequences, (one per video monitor) each one corresponding to a day.