Monday, July 27, 2009

Akram Zaatari's Neruda's Garden blossoms at Beirut Art Center

Beirut Art Center is organizing a major solo exhibition of the work of Lebanese artist Akram Zaatari in collaboration with Sfeir-Semler Gallery (Beirut). The exhibition is divided into two parts that are being shown simultaneously at Sfeir-Semler Gallery and Beirut Art Center. At Beirut Art Center, Zaatari will present work that is based on the letters and photographs of a former Lebanese prisoner in Israel named Nabih Awada. Born in Aytaroun, Lebanon, in 1972, Nabih Awada joined the Lebanese resistance as a member of the Communist Party in 1986, and took part in several military operations against the Israeli army in Southern Lebanon before he was captured in September 1988. He was taken to a prison in Israel but could not be sentenced until two years later, when he turned eighteen. Nabih spent most of his sentence in Askalan Prison and was released in 1998. Zaatari’s installation at Beirut Art Center includes the works Neruda’s Garden, a set of photographs of documents, and Untold, an installation of photographs and videos. Neruda’s Garden15 photographs. Various sizes. While still in Askalan Prison, Nabih Awada’s communication with his family was restricted to letters, a few photographs, audiotapes, and one short video. Awada’s letters were written with an extremely positive tone, through which he tried to assure his family and friends that he was in good health, and that he was strong. Letters were signed with his nickname Neruda, and were often decorated with colorful flowers and with loving expressions. This work focuses on the difficulty of communicating situations of long isolation; in other terms, it focuses on all that Awada’s letters could never say. Untold A set of 48 photographs of prisoners, 2 videos and one light-box. This work focuses on all that remains unsaid among prisoners, and among resistance fighters in general. In Zaatari’s new video “Letter to Samir” (2008, 32 minutes), Nabih Awada writes a letter to Samir al-Qintar right after his release by the Israelis in July 2008. In his letter, Awada tells al-Qintar all what he cannot tell him in real-life, and carefully wraps the letter and seals it inside a plastic capsule. The video is presented against a backdrop of 48 photographs of prisoners in different prisons in Israel, all of which are dedicated to Awada. Exhibition co-produced with: Sfeir-Semler Gallery (Hamburg - Beirut) - Kunstverein Munich - Pixel Grain (Berlin) With the support of The Prince Claus Fund AKRAM ZAATARI Born in Saida, Lebanon, in 1966, Akram Zaatari is an artist who lives and works in Beirut. Throughout his oeuvre, Zaatari has been exploring issues pertinent to postwar Lebanon. A collector of testimonies, documents, and objects, his search focuses on the mediation of territorial conflicts and wars, the logic of religious and national resistance, and the production and circulation of images in the context of a geographically divided Middle East. Zaatari is a co-founder of the Arab Image Foundation (Beirut), through which he has developed works by collecting, studying, and archiving a subjective photographic history, most notably studying the work of Lebanese photographer Hashem el Madani (1928-), as a register of social relationships and of photographic practices.
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