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Still lives of walking cities: Francis Alÿs, Ayreen Anastas, Rene Gabri, Asse Lau, Akram Zaatari

Rene Gabri

Ayreen Anastas

Francis Alÿs

August 19, 2009 8:00 pm

In association with the exhibitions earth of endless secrets and prisoner of war, Beirut art center presents a screening of video works curated by Beth Stryker. These videos explore the politics and poetics of space, within the framework of experimental aesthetic practices. Investigating the boundaries between insider/outsider, urban/pastoral, and public/private together these works open up a dialectic on urbanism, politics, and aesthetics.

Francis Alÿs
Sometimes doing something poetic can become political and sometimes doing something political can become poetic
2005. english

The video, which revisits the artist’s 1995 work entitled the leak, shows Alys carrying a dripping can of green paint along the armistice boundary that Moshe Dayan marked on a map with a green pencil after Israel’s war of independence ended in 1948. The piece questions the physicality and cultural relevance of the green line, its function as a social and spiritual division in the city of Jerusalem, and its role in the Arab-Israeli conflict. With this work, alÿs asks: can an artistic intervention translate social tensions into narratives that in turn intervene in the imaginary landscape of a place? Can an absurd act provoke a transgression that makes you abandon the standard assumptions on the sources of conflict? Can those kinds of artistic acts bring about the possibility of change? In any case, how can art remain politically significant without assuming a doctrinal standpoint or aspiring to become social activism? For the moment, alÿs is exploring the following axiom: sometimes doing something poetic can become political, and sometimes doing something political can become poetic.

ayreen anastas + rene gabri
die vant
2009. 10 min. Arabic and Yiddish with English subtitles

die vant, in yiddish the wall, is a footnote from and part of a series of videos entitled what everybody knows*

*what everybody knows (2006-present) in the spring of 2006, Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri traveled together to Palestine and Israel, searching, researching, and witnessing the situation in the country. They created a series of videos, documenting their encounters with people struggling, resisting, surviving, suffering, and living their everyday lives. Some of those include a geographer, a professor, an activist, a former detainee, an architect, and a Bedouin. The structure of the videos follows their 16-day journey which took them to a new story at a new location every day. What everybody knows is about what everybody seemingly also ignores, and is an attempt to really think about the question of Palestine and reformulate it through the personal experience of each character, creating a snapshot of the social, psychological, and political dimensions of contemporary life under occupation.

Lasse Lau
Pine nuts 
2008. 20 min. English with Arabic subtitles

Through the recollections of immigrants’ stories of the Lebanese diaspora, pine nuts focuses on the history of the public park Horsh Beirut, which nearly 20 years after the end of the civil strife, still hasn’t officially re-opened to the public.

Akram Zaatari
Nature Morte
11 min. 2008. no dialogue

Explores a former Lebanese resistant’s re-appropriation of his identity as a soldier in a work described by the artist as a ‘poetic document that is not a fiction, but not documentary either.’ nature morte re-frames the notion of ‘still-life’ investing it with political intent.