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RESIDENCY PROGRAM AS EMERGENCY RELIEF : MAKE YOURSELF AT HOME

Weaving layers of text, poetry and visuals, prepared by the participants of the Temporary Art Platform. They ask, what is a home in times of displacement?

  • Dec 21 2020
  • Temporary Art Platform (tap.)
    is an international curatorial platform that was founded in 2014 to commission projects, residencies and site-specific artworks concerned by social practices and public spaces in Lebanon and abroad. TAP’s structure and its organic, non-regular programming, gives way to a deeper engagement with the context in which it unfolds with a focus on knowledge production and community impact.

    Amanda Abi Khalil, founder of Temporary Art Platform is an independent curator based between Beirut and Rio de Janeiro. 

    Patrick Pessoa is a playwright and theater critic, professor of philosophy from Rio de Janeiro. 
     
    Panos Aprahamian writes, teaches, and works with film and digital media to explore the spectral presence of the past and the future in bodies, landscapes, and correlations.

    Nour Sokhon is an interdisciplinary artist, her creative explorations have been in the form of sound performances, installations, and moving images.

    Betty Ketchedjian works in digital and analog photography. Her moving images and sound installations explore notions of the self and identity, while also questioning human behavior in social contexts.

    Maxime Hourani is an artist and architect who works with time-based media. He explores in his work the poetics and politics of land transformation while locating affective encounters between the history of nature and the nature of history. 

    Omar Mismar is an interdisciplinary artist based in Beirut. Influenced by conceptual art, critical studies and design, Mismar's work is project driven.

    Nour Osseiran is an art practitioner and cultural manager, stranding creating and curating, tracing the threads that run through both.

    Lara Tabet is a Lebanese medical doctor and visual artist Her artistic practice is informed by her background in pathology and examines the relationship between the individual and public/private space in connection to gender, sexuality, and identity.

The residency is a pretext to plan a coup in Beirut

Seven artists arrive to a Brazilian jungle to spend five weeks at an arts residency, conceived as a relief response after the August 4 explosion of Beirut. The artists mostly did not know each other, and if they did, it was that cautious, timid, knowledge of acquaintanceship. It wasn’t until the third week of the residency, two weeks before the return to the site of the disaster, that “relief”—as it has been practiced and offered, sometimes tweaked, other times resisted but now paling in prosaicism—emerged as a predicament.

The waterfall, in its three iterations, the port, the closer accessible beach, the further fancy beach, the hikes in and out of the jungle, the walks towards and around the empty beaches, the island hopping, and the catered meals, with vegan options slowly but steadily making their way into the buffet, all of these seem to have failed to coalesce into the precarious category of relief with the promise of ripening into a feeling of relief.

Hell no! The fire in their souls was too raging for all the cachoeiras and the beaches and the tiring walks to put out. These were merely chiseling away their background in an attempt to make the subjects appear in relief.

Relief: a sculptural technique where what is sculpted remains attached to but raised from the surface it was sculpted from. The sculpted objects are delineated, extracted from their stale, mute background, to rise in relief above it. Yet they remain inseparable from their background plane, they are molded from that plane; it is where they come from. What is not chiseled from the background constitutes and remains in them.

What if relief, they thought, can be arrived it at via a different route?

Instead of chiseling away the background, chiseling into it; cutting through the field rather than rising from it. This is the counter-relief technique. Rather than clearing the ground for the subject to seemingly emerge floating in relief while in fact it is submerged in grief, the chiseling here occurs in the background itself, and in the subject itself, so that the subject remains of that background but as its meticulous erosion.

Revenge! Revenge shall be the chisel for their counter-relief efforts in order to attain relief. But that won’t be fathomable until the background plane is strategically eroded, its constituents decimated. Aoun, Berri, Nasrallah, Hariri, Jumblat, Jaajaa, and Bassil, to begin with, hold that background together. Friends, we must conspire to kill them!

HOW TO BREAK A LIFE CYCLE

OX513A is a strain of transgenic mosquitoes designed to reduce the population by passing a lethal gene to their offspring. Males, which don't bite humans, are released in towns and cities, where they mate with wild females. Their offspring quickly accumulate the lethal protein, and the vast majority die before maturing.

 

QUEER NATURE

Marginal* Creatures from the Brazilian forest bleed out of a dark romantic nature. The iridescent and mercurial properties of these newly born creatures mimic a nature devastated by toxic forces.

*Marginal in Portuguese translates to an outlaw.

 

How do you prepare to flee at a moment’s notice?

What do you take with you when you take to sea? When you don’t know where you’re going.
When you don’t know when you’ll be coming back.

No one here is using the studio.

Artworks live on through documentation, and not in materialized forms.

It is the repetition, the rehearsal, and the encounter.
It is the collection, the investigation, the probing, and the reshaping.

Pulverize to bare essentials,
and build back up.
but what grows from the debris?

Everything else, we let go of. Everything else, we cannot take with us.

When our studio walls burst.
When the sirens go off; signalling the need to flee at a moment’s notice.

 

 

NEVER HAVE I EVER WISHED TO BE AN ARTIST. 

All of the artists present took a sip from

their drinks; few gulped it bottoms up.

 

 


Traveling across continents to escape the agony that has eaten our city, helped. Yet the beauty of the jungle did not take the pain away.

The subtle sounds of the creatures moving and the wide variety of birds chirping captured me. For a moment it allowed me to process a thought or two, by reminding me that the world is much larger than the events that we have witnessed in Lebanon from October 17, 2019 until now.

The collective trauma that was shared between myself and the other individuals that were brave enough to embark on this journey into the jungle amidst a global plague kept me intact.

Our broken love for our city and our shared pain, encouraged me to embrace the relief that the “cachoeira” offered. I recall screaming at the top of my lungs under this everflowing influx of white noise (waterfall) with the company of Lara.


 

THE BUFFET LACKS POLITICAL RICHNESS

The gist of a heated conversation with Maxime: Veganism is not a choice. It is a political position.

 

ريو دي جانيرو ، اليوم الرابع من دسمبر ٢٠٢٠

Today it’s been four months since the Beirut Port blast and two months after the start of the relief residency for Lebanese artists I put together with my curatorial platform (tap.) in Brazil. Today I am packing a home to find another one I left back in Lebanon during the Revolution in October last year. It has been a ricochet of tragedies. I have no more energy to count them. The exhibition project ‘’Make yourself at home’’, I have been working on for the last three years - based on a long-term cultural exchange between Rio de Janeiro and Beirut with accomplice Patrick Pessoa - got postponed. In the face of events, the project offered a safe shelter to artists in the Mata Atlantica Forest. I wrote to Patrick yesterday (who also visited us in Boiçucanga). We have been exchanging homes and letters since 2017. He replied:

Querida Amanda, bom dia. Como estão os teus últimos dias de Rio de Janeiro neste ano? Aqui nas montanhas de Teresópolis, sinto saudade do litoral de Boiçucanga. E da poderosa armata de Brancaleones libaneses que gozosamente nos invadiu para nos salvar da caretice deste país tomado pela extrema direita, com soldados e pastores em tudo que é esquina. Todo artista é meio um Brancaleone. Lembra do Vittorio Gassman no filme do Mario Monicelli? Os libaneses que aqui estiveram me lembraram muito os de Beirute. Apesar da merda toda, da explosão devastadora, dos cacos de vidro cravados nos corpos, das cicatrizes que todos ali vão carregar pra sempre, havia neles uma potência de vida, um sorriso no peito, que me encantou. (Basta olhar para essa foto do reencontro deles em Beirute pra entender o que estou dizendo!)

Desde que fui pra Beirute pela primeira vez, achei que Beirute era o Rio de Janeiro no Mediterrâneo: me senti totalmente em casa. Se eu fosse bom em propaganda, naquele caminho entre o aeroporto de Beirute e a cidade, do lado dos cartazes de mártires, políticos e novos empreendimentos imobiliários (a Beirutopia da Randa Mizra é foda!), mandava fazer um cartaz dizendo o seguinte: «Beirute: make yourself at home». O título da tua exposição podia ser o apelido (ou o slogan) da tua cidade! E, em certo sentido, do Rio também. (Esta tua outra cidade do lado de cá do Atlântico...).

É que só mesmo em cidades caóticas é possível pra um estrangeiro se sentir em casa. Caóticas e miscigenadas, onde nem a tua aparência nem o teu sotaque denunciam de imediato que você não pertence àquele lugar. Se te deixam ficar só um pouco sem discriminar tua diferença, você sabe o que acontece: a cidade te envolve, te devora e te cospe transformado como faz com todos os nascidos ali. E isso diariamente. Nas pequenas coisas. Adorava quando falavam comigo em árabe na rua, me sentia totalmente acolhido pelo ambiente, verdadeiramente abraçado.

Em cidades europeias, por outro lado, onde tudo está no lugar (pelo menos é essa ideia falsa que os europeus tentam nos vender!), o estrangeiro se sente como o Peter Sellers em «Um convidado bem trapalhão» (adoro o título brasileiro, mas em inglês o filme se chama «The party»). O guest fica achando que, se tocar em alguma coisa, qualquer coisa, vai dar merda. E quase sempre aparece um host racista para te lembrar (com um «não entendi» por causa do teu sotaque, uma agressão verbal direta por causa da tua cor ou mesmo com um simples olhar) de que «aqui não é a tua casa». «Make yourself at home na puta que pariu» foi o que mais me pareceu ouvir nos tempos que morei em Berlim ou em Paris. Dizem que essas cidades mudaram... Será?

Vou terminar que esta carta já está ficando longa demais. Uma última coisa: você me pergunta o que eu senti diante da explosão do porto de Beirute.

Um choque, claro, como todo mundo. A irrupção do real é sempre traumática e faz a realidade parecer um filme B de Hollywood. Depois, passado algum tempo, achei que a explosão era quase uma elaboração material (ou talvez até mesmo uma expressão artística, no sentido de produzida por mão humana) da ruína econômica do Líbano, de sua asfixia pelo Covid, mas sobretudo pelos senhores da guerra até hoje no Poder. A explosão me fez lembrar do Brasil, este país transformado em barril de pólvora por um governo de extrema direita ridículo no seu totalitarismo (Hitler era um gentleman comparado à Bolsonaro!) Mas, sem querer minimizar a dor de ninguém, muito pelo contrário, do mesmo jeito que o segundo que antecedeu a explosão roubou todo o ar da atmosfera, minha tendência é olhar para o segundo que vem depois do bang. E o que vejo, tanto no Brasil quanto no Líbano, não é o “apocalipse now”, o horror diante dos “homens ocos” de Marlon Brando dizendo T. S. Eliot.

Para além de uma visão distópica pretensamente realista (Omar me disse que acha que o Líbano não há de se recuperar no seu tempo de vida, nos próximos 50 anos, e isso me tocou muito...), o que vejo no sorriso de um Omar Mismar, uma Lara Tabet, uma Nour Soukhon, e também no teu, Amanda, é uma vocação difícil de nomear. Acho que é uma vocação para encontrar uma maneira de puxar o ar em algum lugar e deixá-lo invadir os pulmões com o mesmo prazer daquele primeiro cigarro da manhã. Como diria meu tio Fernando Pessoa, seja no Brasil ou no Líbano, “enquanto viver vou fumando” para “encontrar uma porta mesmo ao pé de uma parede sem portas”.

Beijo grande e até já, Patrick

//

Read the original version of this conversation in issue 14 "The Landlord is Coming"