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Race for the Surface

December 9, 2021 - April 29, 2022 12:00 - 8:00 pm

Featured Artist: Nadim Choufi

Beirut Art Center is pleased to announce Race for the Surface, a solo exhibition by Nadim Choufi. For his first institutional showing, Choufi presents The Sky Oscillates Between Eternity and Its Immediate Consequences (2021), the winner of the first edition of Art Jameel’s digital commissions. The film explores how the future of smart cities relies on the promise of “sustainable” closed systems in the face of health and ecological crises. Two protagonists narrate how the control and exploitation of environmental life cycles and organisms are the blueprint to achieve such futuristic visions. Cohabiting the space alongside the film, is Full Body Stretch, a series of sculptures made of PVC tubing, silicon appendages, fiberglass membranes and squirting cloudy fluids. The sculptures, commissioned by Beirut Art Center, function like clunky incontinent waste management systems, full of inefficient twists, turns, and leaks. Across this body of work, Choufi playfully prods the doctrine that technology can solve all of mankind’s problems. Rather than address the deeply ingrained social and political causes of these problems, this belief system only deflects the issues of the present to some notion of a better future.

Even in the act of restoring the natural world, the Human reveals His underlying desire for domination. Closed systems designed as controlled replicas of the world to save the world, become erotic power plays with nature, testing how long to keep it in a chokehold before finally allowing it the “perfect” gasp of air. The future is lured in by CGI renderings of sustainable living colonies, closed carnal loops, pulsating sexy electric blue in their veins, to inject an optimal life into life.

These dream designs for a sustainable planet projected in the post-organic era, still use the crutch of nature in their visuals, staging the scene across lush valleys and mountains. But being a part of an endless metabolic cycle, it turns out, is not so much an invitation to relax in a picturesque resort, rather it is a strictly scheduled model of governance for all landscapes and organisms, yourself included, to churn at the desired speed.   

What began as a world view to uplift life has now reduced life forms to productive infrastructure in order to stay on time. Yet the future can’t possibly be all work, can it? You, the inhabitant of the colony will have to take a break at some point. You might lie down simply because it feels good, you might dream of a lover or meet with friends on the street to witness something together. Something other than watching yourselves burn out from exhaustion. These kinds of future events are not accounted for in the design of the colony. They are leaks of energy in the ecosystem, but do not think of them as flaws. Yes, they are entropic expressions, but they are necessary if you are to outlive the set paradigms of a future placed on you.