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Lebanon pavilion at Venice Biennale to evoke the ‘chaos and beauty’ of Beirut

by Mar 1, 2022Arab News

eirut is the inspiration behind the Lebanese pavilion’s key works at the Venice Biennale in Italy, which runs from April 23 to November 27 at the Venetian Arsenal.

The Lebanon pavilion is curated by Nada Ghandour under the theme: The World in the Image of Man.

The centrepieces of the exhibition will be an installation by Lebanese artist Ayman Baalbaki and a video directed by Danielle Arbid.

According to the programme notes, both works are inspired by the urban and frenetic nature of Beirut, a city encompassing the “chaos and beauty” of Lebanon.

Baalbaki’s installation, Janus Gate, is potent and gritty. It features a structure whose walls are comprised of collage of a torn-up, neon-lit street signs, furious splashes of blood, coloured paint and images of decaying buildings.

Ayman Baalbaki, 'Janus Gate'. Photo: Ayman Baalbaki

Inside the structure, amid the torn fabrics is a small analogue television humming away.

The installation also features a clothes line carrying singlets and trousers drenched in green liquid.

“This is the first time that I have presented such an ambitious and monumental installation, which is about five metres high,” Baalbaki said.

“It was also a new experiment from a technical point of view because I used ‘flex’, which is a material on which the colours do not cling easily. I also added posters and many other materials taken from the streets of Beirut.”

Danielle Arbid explores Beirut with short film 'Allo Cherie'. Photo: Danielle Arbid

Arbid’s video, called Allo Cherie, depicts a stroll through Beirut and captures skirting the line between exuberance and extinction.

“For me, it is a way of capturing Lebanon, a country that one feels could disappear tomorrow,” she said.

“The idea was to create a sense of immersion where one can put oneself in the shoes of my character and enter their life. This is why I chose to divide the video in two.

“The split screen and the cutting of the sequences reinforce the feeling of a turn, of a tilt. It accentuates the surprise. We find ourselves more immersed in the streets of Beirut and we are surrounded by the spaces of this city.”

Pavilion architect Aline Asmar d’Amman created an experience suggesting a walk through the “heart of Lebanon” and is inspired by the city’s brutalist architecture of the 1960s.

Asmar d’Amman says the stark visuals are a direct response to Lebanon’s dire situation. “The choice of such radical actions and sceno-graphic materials expresses a desire for sobriety in response to the country’s current situation.”

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