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Lamia Joreige: Under-Writing Beirut - Mathaf

Research about the area around the National Museum, at the former Green Line, which divided Beirut throughout the Lebanese Wars.
May 2013

Since 2010, Lebanon has entered a new phase. While tensions have erupted in the entire region, the country remains in a state of near stagnation. The present has become characterised by underlying peril and diffused antagonisms.

Rather than exploring particular moments of danger from Beirut's past or future as in Beirut. Autopsy of a City, the installation Under-Writing Beirut - Mathaf looks at historically or personally significant locations within the city's present, finding in them access to other temporalities. By investigating the history of these locations, it both unearths traces and reflects on erasure. Elements that have vanished, such as incomplete words, stories and images, and, inversely, elements that have survived, constitute the underlying motif of the work.

Under-Writing Beirut - Mathaf creates links between the history of a place and its inscription in time as well as its timeless dimension; between the notion of a trace that records a place's reality and the fictions that reinvent it. Like a palimpsest, the project incorporates the various layers of time and existence that co- inhabit the present.

The installation at Sharjah Biennial 11 forms the first chapter of an ongoing project. This chapter focuses on the artist's neighbourhood in Beirut, known as Mathaf, the Arabic word for museum. The area is home to the National Museum of Beirut, which opened in 1942 and holds a small yet impressive collection of archaeological finds that span a few thousands years. Mathaf is located along what was once the "Green Line”, which divided East and West Beirut throughout the Lebanese Wars (1975-1991). It was known for its checkpoint, one of the rare passageways where people could cross from one side of the city to the other. During the Lebanese Wars, the museum's building, along with part of its collection, was severely damaged; however, many more pieces were rescued from destruction or looting by the museum's conservator, who built protective concrete walls around them. Following the end of the conflict, these pieces were rediscovered, and today some severely damaged artifacts are displayed amid intact ones.

The first chapter of Under-Writing Beirut - Mathaf includes found materials and documents as well as sculpture, drawing, photography, video and writing inspired by the research undertaken.



Lamia Joreige
* 1972 Beirut, Lebanon; lives there.
Lamia Joreige uses archival documents and fictitious elements to reflect on the relation between individual stories and collective history. She explores the possibilities of the representation of the Lebanese wars, their aftermath, and Beirut, a city at the centre of her imagery.

Joreige has presented her work in many exhibitions and venues internationally, including Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan (2012); Tate Modern, London, UK (2011); Mathaf, Doha, Qatar (2010); Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA (2010); Sharjah Biennial, UAE (2009); International Center for Photography, New York, New York, USA (2008); Venice Biennale, Italy (2007); Modern Art Oxford, UK (2005); Townhouse Gallery, Cairo, Egypt (2005); Musée Nicéphore Niépce, Chaton-sur-Saône, France (2003); and Home Works Forum, Beirut (2003, 2008), She is cofounder and codirector of Beirut Art Center, a nonprofit space dedicated to contemporary art in Lebanon.


© Text from the catalogue of Sharjah Biennial 11, re-published with permission of the Sharjah Art Foundation.

Under-Writing Beirut - Mathaf, 2013

Mixed media installation
Commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation

Presented at Sharjah Biennial 11
13 March - 13 May 2013
United Arab Emirates

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