Under-Writing Beirut—Mathaf (2013)
Sculpture, Prints, Photograms, Book, Silkscreen
Under-Writing Beirut—Mathaf (2013)
Sculpture, Prints, Photograms, Book, Silkscreen.
Commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation, 2013
Project assistant: Nadia Al Issa
The installation includes the following works:
Objects from the National Museum of Beirut.
Visible on December 15, 2012.
Inkjet print. 150 x 300 cm
Objects Missing from the National Museum of Beirut. Leather book. 38 x 28 cm
Object of War.
Concrete. 40 x 45 x 40 cm
180 Degree Garden View
Video HD, 14 min.
Views of Museum Square
Photograms, black and white.Various dimensions
Silkscreen. 31 x 44 cm. Based on a Photograph by Ibrahim Tawil, 1976 ® AnNahar Documentation Center – Beirut
|Under-Writing Beirut—Mathaf looks at historically and personally significant locations within Beirut’s present. Like a palimpsest, the project incorporates various layers of time and existence, creating links between the traces that record such places’ previous realities and the fictions that reinvent them.
Mathaf, the Arabic word for museum, is the first chapter of an ongoing project, and focuses on the artist’s neighborhood in Beirut. The area, known as Mathaf, is home to the National Museum of Beirut, which opened in 1942. The museum is located along what was once the Green Line, which divided East and West Beirut throughout the Lebanese Wars (1975-1991). Once a site meant to represent national union, the museum and its area became a symbol of the country’s division and the backdrop for sectarian violence.
During the wars, and despite preservation efforts made by the museum conservator to protect the collection (by building walls and concealing objects with concrete), the museum’s building was destroyed and part of its small yet impressive collection was severely damaged, looted, or lost.
Under-Writing Beirut – Mathaf responds to the impossibility faced by the artist while attempting to access artifacts in the museum’s storage as well as its archives, and to the only objects made available from them – the damaged ‘Good Shepherd Mosaic’ and a photograph documenting it from the time of the wars, when a sniper made a hole into it to have a strategic view onto the museum crossing and immediate surroundings.
By reenacting the sniper’s line of sight, the video ‘180 Degree Garden View’ puts us in the position to imagine what the sniper saw and whom he may have killed through the hole. ‘Object of War’, on the other hand, is the negative of the sniper hole cast as a concrete sculpture. Its initial impetus rests on the practice of the imprint as a trace of contact with a body or void. The sculpture was produced by a digital model created from photographs and precise measurements taken of the sniper hole. Rather than standing in as a replica, the sculpture moves away from the exactness of reproduction towards the freedom of reformulation. Then, as if impersonating this sniper and envisioning his perspective of the city, the artist created pinhole camera views ‘shooting’ at the museum from the window of her apartment, in the series ‘Views of Museum Square’.
‘Objects from the National Museum of Beirut’ is partly inspired by the inaccessibility of the museum storage. It dwells by default on the only part of the collection that is visible, the entirety of the display on December 15, 2012. By reproducing every caption identifying the objects on view, the work ironically and vainly attempts to represent the museum’s holdings in one image, uncovering the politics of historiography and questioning the museum as a foundation for national identity.
‘Objects Missing from the National Museum of Beirut’ relates to the stories heard and unheard about the museum’s disappeared objects. This closed leather book emphasizes the secrecy surrounding their disappearance and the inaccessibility of pertinent information. It highlights the potential for imagination to fill in such fissures and culminates in an archive that may or may not have existed.