Beirut Autopsy of a City (2010)

Multimedia Installation
Photographs, Texts, Videos

Beirut Autopsy of a City (2010)

Multimedia Installation (3 chapters)
Photographs, texts and videos
Commissionned by Mathaf, Qatar for the exhibition ‘Told, Untold, Retold’, 2010
Research Assistant: Hisham Awad

Chapter 1: A history of Beirut’s possible disappearance
Photographs, texts and videos.

Chapter 2: Beirut, 1001 views
Video, 16 minutes, (in loop), back & white, silent.

Chapter 3: Beirut, 2058
Video, in loop, color, sound.

This project proposes possible reconciliations between the task of the archaeologist and that of the poet, between modern images and ancient texts. In the middle of tales of conquest and defeat that shaped (and disfigured) Beirut, one wanders amidst narratives that point out to the impossibility of constructing a grand history.

The first chapter ‘A history of Beirut’s possible disappearance’ exposes collected elements from various epochs, juxtaposed and overlapped in what seems ot be a timeline; they constitute poetic associations between image and text, creating intertemporal relations between those elements. These fragments question the validity of a complete and comprehensive history and propose instead a fictionalized narrative.

The second chapter ‘Beirut, 1001 views’ is a large projection of a wide view of the harbor. This image, a multi-layered one, is an amalgam of different photographs taken at various times, each referring to a specific moment of history. It is therefore a fictive representation of Beirut that embodies simultaneously different periods of history, hence being neither a past image nor a present one, yet one reflecting a time that is non-linear. Elements of the image disappear while other appear almost imperceptibly. However, the image remains suspended between appearance and disappearance. In a single image, a ship from the 19th century floats in a photograph of sea from 1950, under a menacing skyline in the 80’s.

The third chapter ‘Beirut, 2058’ displaces the anxiety from the past and its remnants and projects it unto a future apocalyptic realm. A narrator speaks of numerable troubles of the past that seem to have culminated in a catastrophe erasing all signs of life. An image of a seemingly calm coastline hides an erased cityscape.

Chapter 1:
Images acquired and/or given by kind permission from:  The Fouad Debbas Collection, The Arab Image Foundation, The Direction Générale des Antiquités, The Ministry of Tourism of Lebanon, An Nahar Documentation Center, As Safir Documentation Center, Tania & François Mehanna

Videos from: New TV (television Al Jadid) 2006 & Lamia Joreige.

For the video remake of a scene from the film
Screenplay by Wim Wenders, Peter Handke, Richard Reitinger. By kind permission of: Verlag der Autoren, Frankfurt/Main, Germany

Director: Lamia Joreige
Actors: Lana Daher & Lamia Joreige
Cinematography & Editing: Roy Samaha
Music: Charbel haber
Sound recording & mixing (post production): Raed Younane (Djinn House)
Arabic Translation: Jacques Aswad

Texts by:
Philip Hitti: Tarikh Loubnane, Dar al Thakafa, 1959
Samir Kassir Histoire de Beirut, Fayard, 2004
Saleh Bin Yahya, History of Beirut, Dar el Machreq
Nina Jidedjian Beirut, A city of contrasts, Aleph, 2008
Ibn Tulun, Mufakahat Al Khilan, volume 2 : 122, 123
Sami El-Masri (1999), Beirut: The City an dits Crafts in the Medieval Period. Ph.D. Dissertation, Freie Universität Berlin. Mahmoud Darwish Memory for Forgetfulness, University of California, 1995. Joseph C.Chami Le Mémorial du Liban & Lamia Joreige

Chapter 2:
Based on photographs from: The Arab Image Foundation,  The Fouad Debbas Collection & An Nahar Documentation Center – Beirut.
Effects: Sandra Fatté (Djinn House)

Chapter 3:
Effects: Sandra Fatté (Djinn House)