Nelida Nassar 06.22.2014
Under the patronage of the Lebanese Ministry of Environment “Extraordinary Art Exhibition” is organized by the Goguikian Foundation and Action PR Group. This NGO is dedicated to providing scholarships to Armenian students interested in joining the Lebanese public service. In 2013, it initiated an awareness program regarding ecology and recycling. The exhibition is an extension of last year’s brief. It features the work of fifty Lebanese artists recycling waste into artwork. It re-appropriates various groups of materials including leather, metal, paper, plastic, textile and wood. They are transformed into installation, mobile, furniture, painting, sculpture, jewelry and more. It seems ludicrous to speak about art and recycling when the country is consumed with violence, survival and is constantly on the brink of collapse. However, this unstable equilibrium is a great incubator for creativity and inventiveness. The exhibited artists demonstrate tremendous resourcefulness in four areas.
Social Commitment and Engagement
A noteworthy solution of social commitment and engagement that respects the environment 3R (reduce, reuse and recycle) is Khaled el Mays De2 El Mayy, Mayy. It is a powerful indictment of Lebanon’s water predicament and the incapacity for the government and its citizens to find a valid solution to a determining survival issue. It is an eloquent installation both semantically and symbiotically with its good dose of humor. Youssef Haidar Urbanest 1 is also an elucidation about social responsibility. It reuses and recycles rusted cans of oil and pieces of textiles. Urbanest 1 proposes a shelter for bird and/or human to nestle in. The opposing qualities of coarse and bumpy cans forming the outer shell versus the supple and squashy interior fabric are conveyed lyrically. Can these Urbanests spread out across the nation gives some respite to the country’s refugees? Bechara Atallah Incomplete is a monumental installation with the contour of a dress. It is constructed of ladies multi-shaped, colored pursues. Atallah is preoccupied with the notion of consumerism and women’s loss of identity in Lebanon. The colossal piece made of 90 hefty handbags weaves an intricate story line although it remains fragmentary, as one identity card placed on the floor in front of the installation seems a weak and flimsy whisper to articulate the voices of 90 female dissident.
Raising the Spirit
Some of pieces engage the viewer by lifting its spirit such as Nada Zeineh Blowing in the Wind. The poetic mobile of twig and metal soda-can leaves is the quintessence of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. The lightness of love, haphazard and perhaps based on endless strings of coincidences contrasts with Friedrich Nietzsche’s metaphor of eternal recurrence that imposes on our lives weight and heaviness. Chadia Najjar Electron Tubes Mobile II is an elegant assemblage of replaced non shimmering tubes rotating gracefully and non apologetically. Nour Kays Simplexity proposes a narrative of complementary relationship between notions of simplicity and complexity. It is a nod to Sonia Delauney’s orphism of strong colors and geometric shapes. Cynthia Zahar SL638479521 Pieces chandelier made of derelict clocks transport us down memory lane to our childhood security and well-being. While Sandra Macaron The Mimic Stool taps into our collective Lebanese consciousness. The multi-media artist re-appropriates fiercely discarded straws and transforms them in what seems effortlessly into the seat of our beloved childhood stool.
The figurative art in Raffi Yadalian Rebirth is an unpredictable combination of wire, nails, metal can and molding transforming them into the narrative of a powerful and attractive form. Ramzig Bertizian Daedelus made from computer chips, hard disc, rams and various wires is an anguished figure struggling between its real and virtual reality, lost amidst both of them. Leila Jureidini Soda King of six totem poles educes the image of standing guards to our senseless and negligent soft drinks consumption. Lee Frederick Good Riddance celebrates the marks left by objects – steel rods, wood fragments, peeling paint and scrap metal – that when transformed, the imprint of their memory remains, hence their renewed sense of value. Missak Terzian Palm Trees of three-highly stacked spiral piles of discarded printing paper utilize its white side and is placed in three plexi-glass vessels. Graceful and elegant in its purity, one misses the reserve side of the printed color marks un-exploited and non included in the installation.
The intricately collaged Nada Debs Scrap Veneer and Rana Khatib Side Tables are beautifully crafted wood miscellany. The finely assembled pieces of furniture are a bit too slick. Left out to their raw stage without any finishing intervention would have been more remarkable as in the case of Rana Salam vernacular La Wet, la Bet 1 and la Bet 2, of plastic Pepsi boxes and shipping crates or Bokja Plastic Fantastic, a chair made out of multi-colored plastic bags surrounding a found metal structure. It seems that formalism was on both Debs and Khatib’s mind. Alas, the show seems amiss of any piece related to composting, a seminal reuse and recycling substance.
Who curated the show is an interesting question to ask? Reality is by agreement and the reality of art is usually by some kind of concurrence. The arbiters are the museums, the museum curators, the people who spend their lives and their time actually being critical of what they see and judging what they see. If you add in four or five art critics who are then able to write about it, if you get four or five main collectors who are passionate about what they collect to patronize it; and several major auction houses to auction it – impracticable in Lebanon’s reality – then a consensus or vetting process begins to unfold. Of course there’s magic dust involved, so this is not a sure way, but it’s a safe way to go about judging what valid art is? In this case, Toufic el Zein, principal of a PR firm promoting the Goguikian Foundation is the guest curator. He invited a number of first time comers and more reputable local artist and designers from various artistic disciplines – giving the
exhibition some gravitas – to tackle the recycling issue. But, the result is mixed while the choreography and pairing of the art are commendable. The catalogue that is a vehicle for preserving visual memory and is a historical repository of the exhibit is embarrassing
both in its design and text. The absence of introductory panel at the show’s entrance is also overlooked.
Does this exhibition have something that engages you, on one of a million levels, in person, and establishes a memory that remains positive? The answer is indeed yes. It is several artworks that challenges you and then makes you think about it moments afterwards or some that seduces you and delivers pleasant feelings days later. There are as many ways to produce this 1 to 2 effect as there are artists in this exhibition, but so much of the art here that grabs you is glib and you forget it or is lousy and only recalled as something you sped past. Nevertheless, you will not waste nor regret the moments or the memory of looking at it. Once more the artists ubiquitously and generously embraced an NGO’s worthy cause.
Exhibition at “The Venue,” Beirut Souks
June 19 – 28, 2014