Curating Beirut: A Conversation on the Politics of Representation

By Dagher, Sandra; David, Catherine et al. | Art Journal, Summer 2007 | Go to article overview

Curating Beirut: A Conversation on the Politics of Representation


Dagher, Sandra, David, Catherine, Salti, Rasha, Tohme, Christine, Art Journal


The following roundtable conversation, conducted via e-mail during November 2006, assembles a group of curators to consider the stakes and conditions of the national and international exhibition of Beirut-based practices. The participants all bear hands-on experience working in Lebanon and enter into dialogue from unique perspectives: Sandra Dagher, who directed the gallery Espace SD for seven years, is developing a new nonprofit contemporary art space in Beirut and, with Saleh Barakat, is organizing the first Lebanese pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2007); Catherine David, artistic director of Documenta X, is the organizer of the longterm project Contemporary Arab Representations. Rasha Salti, an independent curator and freelance writer based in Beirut and New York, oversees New York's CinemaEast Film Festival; and Christine Tohme directs the Beirut-based Ashkal Alwan (Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts) , which, among its many activities, organizes Home Works, a semiannual series of symposia and exhibitions inaugurated in 2002 and dedicated to Middle Eastern cultural practices.

Since 1975, Lebanon has suffered through a decade and a half of civil war and encountered innumerable crippling setbacks-notabtly the devastating bombing campaign waged by Israel during summer 2006-on its path to a nevertheless startling, if ever- fragile postwar recovery. What becomes clear in the course of the following exchanges is that Beirut's artistic culture, despite the unfavorable odds, has struggled to fulfill its aspirations of creative expression, thoughtful commemoration, and intellectual rigor and honesty. Facilitated by a few ambitious curators and a handful of energetic institutions, cultural production in Beirut is ever vibrant and terribly relevant-no doubt because, as Dagher, David, Salti, and Tohme make clear, it proposes an arena in which the conflicts that beset the city can be addressed at the level of representation, as objects of critical analysis and creative experimentation. Distant though it may be geographically from European and American cultural capitals, Beirut nevertheless emerges here as fully central to the most pressing questions-political, aesthetic, ethical, institutional-that animate artistic and curatorial practices today. - T J. Demos

T.J. Demos: Beirut has undergone massive economic development and cultural growth since the 1990 signing of the Taif accords brought an end, if precarious, to fifteen years of civil war. With the Israeli military campaign during the summer of 2006, Lebanon has suffered destruction on a massive scale, throwing the country into a condition of crisis not seen for a decade and a half. Riven by sectarianism, its infrastructure massively degraded and class divisions starkly apparent, Lebanon is now precariously positioned between competing international pressures from Iran, Syria, the United States, and Israel, with no easy resolution in sight. Given this regression and the resulting political instability, what is the situation of curatorial practice in Beirut today? What do you see as the current challenges and imperatives of curating art in Lebanon in this period of crisis?

Sandra Dagher: It is true that Lebanon has undergone both economic and cultural growth since 1990, but it has not been a stable evolution. The country has never enjoyed peace. Although the heavy fighting may have ended in 1990, during the past sixteen years Lebanon has lived through successive states of tension at different levels (Israeli and Syrian occupation, Israeli attacks, the assassination of political figures) . Of course the Israeli military campaign last summer created even more tension. But the political insecurities and the sectarian divisions were already there and never resolved. So the question would be how to deal with art and curatorial practices in a country that lives in constant change and regular insecurity, where you often live in the present and can rarely anticipate the years to come. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Curating Beirut: A Conversation on the Politics of Representation
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.