|Lebanon, present inside the Arsenal as part of the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, highlights Lebanese contemporary creation and promotes the country in the world thanks to its art and culture.
During the opening of the Lebanese Pavilion in Venice, the Pavilion’s curator Nada Ghandour was surrounded by two artists: the filmmaker and videographer Danielle Arbid and the visual artist Ayman Baalbaki, the Pavilion’s set designer, the architect and founder of Culture in Architecture Aline Asmar from Amman, many Lebanese, friends of Lebanon and representatives of partner institutions. The Lebanese Ambassador to Italy, Ms. Mira Daher, traveled from Rome to attend the opening and support the Pavilion.
Located under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and organized by the Lebanese Association of Visual Arts (LVAA), the Lebanese Pavilion of Biennale Arte 2022 invites you on a symbolic journey into our contemporary world thanks to a theme, The World in the Image of Man , a city, Beirut, and the two artists Danielle Arbid and Ayman Baalbaki, who maintain a political and aesthetic dialogue through two works that are so distant and yet so close. Each work has its economy, its theme, its history and its codes. However, facing each other inside the Pavilion and united by this theme without borders, the two artists respond to each other to put in space the perpetual action of the human imagination on the reality of the world.
In her opening speech, Nada Ghandour underlined: “I feel very honored to act as general curator of the Pavilion. Under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture, which I thank for her trust, I am committed to promoting the excellence of the Lebanese art scene. The presence of the Lebanese Pavilion at the Arsenal is a moment of immense pride, especially in the difficult situation that our country is going through. With this participation it is a strong signal that we are sending to Lebanese artists, to encourage them and show them that they have the support and, also, to promote and preserve the Lebanese art scene that represents an important sector of our country”.
|Janus Gatethe monumental and ambitious installation proposed by Ayman Baalbaki, and Hello darling Danielle Arbid’s turbulent video work, both take the streets of Beirut as their starting point. The two artists dialogue with the polysemic urbanity of this city that embodies both Lebanon and the world, by representing it at the heart of the upheavals of the global crisis and the emotional instability of our technological relationship with the world.
Ayman Baalbaki presents us with a two-sided installation, like a fragmented Beirut, which, like the Latin god Janus, constantly oscillates between past and future, between threats and promises, behind the scenes and facades, between peace and war. The public space is represented by eye-catching billboards that recall the shop windows of buildings under construction, so numerous in Beirut. In the background, the other side of the set is that of a poor caretaker’s shack, a sad shack. Between the two, a door that remains ajar, so that one can pass and change from one side to the other.
Echoing this fragmentation of Beirut, in Hello darling Danielle Arbid deals in her own way with a disturbed perception of space and time, accentuated by her images taken with a mobile phone that reveal the growing competition between the physical and virtual worlds. Danielle Arbid takes us in a car with her own mother, engaged in a frantic search for money through the streets of Beirut, as intimate as it is political when we learn about the crisis that is ravaging Lebanon today. The panorama of Beirut scrolls before our eyes through the windshield, further reinforcing the ambiguity between public space and private space.
The two artists explore these multiple space-times and lines of demarcation to immerse us in a charged and explosive narrative, reinforced by its setting in the divided space. Thus, in Hello darling, the superimposition of sound and image captured separately is accentuated by the use, for the first time in Danielle Arbid’s work, of the split-screen technique. Like a video game, we switch with her sometimes to the right, sometimes to the left, and we get into her work as we go. Janus gate.
In addition to being the place of aesthetic creation, this exhibition offers all Lebanese, who live in their country or who have been alienated by the diaspora, a space for symbolic exchange on their history and current society thanks to the dialogue that it embodies the two artists Ayman Baalbaki, who lives and works in Lebanon, and Danielle Arbid, who left her native country at the age of 17 but has been inspired by it ever since.
The political dimension of the two works is more justified than ever in light of the current situation in Lebanon. Both portray the contradictions and difficulties of the country through their symptoms. The frantic race for money is inseparable from the current violence in Lebanon. Real estate speculation, which promises dreams, hides the ruin and deceives about the goods. Anxiety over Lebanon’s economic and political implosion is increasingly exposed. With their own means, and walking on the thread of eternal return, both give life to the flesh of Lebanon in its chaos and beauty.
The set design of the Pavilion had to respond to the curatorial project, that is, to the notion of dialogue that is crucial in the spirit of this project.
Echoing the works of Danielle Arbid and Ayman Baalbaki, architect Aline Asmar from Amman proposes a circuit in the heart of Lebanon that: “takes the form of a rough elliptical shell that evokes the eternal vow of unity. The surrounding geometric shape invites the works to dialogue without artifice, confronting each other, shortening distances, as in an innate and natural conversation”.
The raw architecture of the Lebanese Pavilion references the contemporary ruins of the Lebanese urban landscape, Joseph Philippe Karam’s downtown “Egg” and Oscar Niemeyer’s “Rashid Karamé” international fair building in Tripoli.
Derived from the brutalist architecture that flourished in Lebanon beginning in the 1960s, this scenographic setting of approximately 150 m2 echoes the Beirut wanderings of Ayman Baalbaki and Danielle Arbid. The enclosure is covered with curved panels painted with a concrete texture that evokes this city, in permanent reconstruction.
Upon entering the Lebanon Pavilion, the visitor is faced with the work of Ayman Baalbaki before being questioned by Danielle Arbid’s video projected directly onto the skin of the walls of the enclosure.
According to Aline Asmar from Amman, the choice of materials for radical gestures and scenery testifies to a desire for sobriety assumed in response to the current situation in the country.
The Scientific Committee
The role of the scientific committee of the advisory body, made up of national and international specialists, was to create an environment for exchange, reflection and discussion with the artists and the architect-scenographer and to provide recommendations.
This committee was composed of Nada Ghandour, Curator of Heritage and Curator of the Lebanese Pavilion, Jean-François Charnier, General Curator of Heritage, Scientific Director of AFALULA, Louma Salamé, Director of the Boghossian Foundation, Villa Empain in Brussels, Annabelle Ténèze, curator Head of Heritage, Director of Slaughterhouses, Musée Frac Occitanie de Toulouse.
Ramzi & Saeda Dalloul Art Foundation (DAF), Groupe Vital, Elie Khouri Art Foundation, Catawiki and The Boghossian Foundation.
59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia
April 23 – November 27, 2022