beirut art center is pleased to present groundwork, a solo exhibition of seminal works by the iraqi-born artist, jananne al-ani.
in 2009 al-ani presented the video installation, a loving man (1996-9) in closer, beirut art center’s opening show. four years later the artist is back for her first solo exhibition in lebanon. many of her earlier film and video works, such as a loving man, include the same chorus of women (usually the artist, her mother and three sisters) and address loss and memory through the enigmatic use of biography, manipulating language and fragmenting narrative.
in 2004 the artist produced a two-part film and video installation, the visit, which includes echo, featuring four female ‘talking heads.’ in contrast with the intimate scale of echo, muse is projected on a grand scale and opens with a shimmering mirage that disperses to reveal an isolated man restlessly pacing back and forth across a patch of barren land. for al-ani muse represented a radical departure and a new starting point; it is the first major work to be made not in the studio but out in the landscape, and in which a male protagonist occupies centre stage.
the visit is the first in a series of films to be shot in the middle east and is the earliest work included in this exhibition. since then al-ani has continued to focus on landscape, seeking to expose and also challenge the orientalist fantasy of the middle east as an unoccupied place with no history. in 2007 the artist began a new body of work titled the aesthetics of disappearance: a land without people that includes two single screen films shadow sites i (2010) and shadow sites ii (2011), which will be shown here together for the first time.
the films address the prominent role of aerial reconnaissance in twentieth-century warfare while exploring the relationship between the technologies of photography and film and contemporary conflict. the work also touches on the discipline of aerial archaeology which developed following the discovery of archaeological sites across europe and the middle east as a result of aerial operations carried out during the first and second world wars.
this survey exhibition also presents the occasion to produce and exhibit new work especially created for groundwork.