although hassan khan has a long and profound relationship with beirut (starting with akram zaatari’s transit visa project in 2001 running through several editions of homeworks) the portrait is an address is his first solo exhibition in any context in this city. furthermore, this show is the first to solely explore one central aspect of khan’s practice in such depth. recent critically acclaimed survey exhibitions have had a wider focus and were on a much larger scale of the artist work. this time, the idea is to dig into one significant direction within the wider constellation that his practice displays.
the portrait has played a pivotal role in khan’s work starting with 100 portraits in 2001 and is represented in various mediums (moving image, photographic image, text pieces). the exhibition aims to explore the primal relation between how we conceive of a self and it’s reproduction (not merely representation), or its construction through formal methods. it proposes the portrait (as genre, approach, and form) as being at all times an absolutely strategic and essential tool of establishing property (as it was first on medals for instance) and/or exhibiting power (in periods and practices as different as in ancient egyptian statues or in classical european paintings), a tool to produce meaning and to shape societies visually as well as being an integral part of the collective imaginary (as in oral traditions, in literature or historical texts). in myths, visual portraits were established as a trace of mortality, to remember, to prevent disappearance; portraits have always been a vessel of memories against the vicissitude of time.
the portrait deals with the complex relationship between visibility and truth. it remains one of the most intriguing elements in the emotional landscape of the human subject, whether as mimesis or fabulation; whether through the power of words or by visual means. the visual portrait acknowledges the human face as a space where interiority may become readable, but also as a surface where the conditions of lived experience are marked. this contiguity between the face as screen and as trace, between self-hood and identification; between the recognizable and the unknowable is a space of possible reflection. this exhibition grapples with the possibility of intimacy, the gaps and losses that are necessary for us to make sense of what we see and what we know, the very possibility of making sense itself. it also simply allows the audience a chance to look at others and themselves in a direct, accessible and emotionally powerful fashion.