Public Works Studio · Ground to Dust: Systems of Extraction and the Search for Spatial Justice

Public Works Studio

December 9, 2021 - April 29, 2022

Beirut Art Center is pleased to announce the first institutional presentation of Public Works Studio (PW): a multidisciplinary research, advocacy and design collective based in Beirut. Since its formation in 2012, the collective has been observing how the systematic commodification of land has deprived people of basic rights; namely the right to produce, belong to, appropriate and change lived space, as well as the right to shape individual and collective memories of it. PW has had to find the visual language to grapple with the sheer breadth of the ecological and social challenges in Lebanon, as well as contend with the sprawling yet invisible nature of the interconnected webs of neoliberalism.

PW’s work fits into a broader zeitgeist of independent monitoring groups and watchdogs in Lebanon. Using a wide array of often participatory research, analysis and visualization tools, their work takes a grassroots approach to knowledge production and dissemination. The proliferation of such initiatives has given rise to a rich visual language spanning written articles, documentary film formats, infographic, cartographic and archival materials, collaborations with artists, among others. 

For this exhibition, Beirut Art Center has proposed a spatial and narrative through line as one way to select and sequence material from a much more expansive and ongoing body of work. We have conceived of the element of dust as the mute narrator of the exhibition, taking viewers across multiple struggles, through varying scales of landscape and urban fabric: from the vast crater of a quarry, to the dense concrete facades of Beirut, and into the smallest room in any given apartment.

Rather than approach the format of the exhibition with any kind of finality, PW has created a site as unstable as the environments it investigates. The exhibition includes a live component in the form of a Public Works Studio outpost: a library of print publications and online projects produced over the span of a decade and an open forum where a series of meetings, symposiums and participatory interventions will be held throughout the exhibition.