Contemporary Arab Representations, Beirut/Lebanon

Contemporary Arab Representations is a long-term project which includes seminars, publications, performances and presentations of works by different authors – visual artists, architects, writers and poets – with the aim of encouraging production, circulation and exchange between the different cultural centers of the Arab world and the rest of the world.

The project aims to tackle heterogeneous situations and contexts which may sometimes be antagonistic or conflictive, and thus to acquire more specific knowledge about what is currently going on in certain parts of the Arab world, to look at the complex dimensions of aesthetics in relation to social and political situations, and to encourage people to think more deeply about the role played today by cultural practices in our own countries.

At present, Lebanon and the Middle East are essential to an understanding of contemporary culture: the post-war situation they are living through is complex – the Taïf accords do not guarantee a definitive peace – and in these times of globalization, the country may seem an exceptionally important laboratory for a number of reasons. Although Lebanon can no longer serve as a ‘model’ or ‘exception’ within the Arab world, the concern of many Lebanese intellectuals – immediately after the war – with the development and promotion of an experimental, critical contemporary Arab culture is sufficient reason to single out a group of authors who feel the need to meet and discuss a medium-term cultural project in their own city and their own context.

All those taking part in the project aim to propose representations that can broach the reality of the city and the present conditions of its society. And they all realize that there are no theories or forms that can encapsulate the phenomenological complexity of contemporary Beirut and Lebanon. Thus, as Saree Makdisi writes in his article ‘Laying Claim to Beirut: Urban Narrative and Spatial Identity in the Age of Solidere’, Lebanon can be understood not simply as a post-modern state but also as the first example of a state on a leasing. Indeed, the interest of the country or the region is also linked with the need to find new instruments for analyzing unprecedented dynamics, speeds, and configurations whose echoes can be heard beyond the Middle East.

Catherine David

Other exhibition venues

Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, May 3 – July 14, 2002 and
BildMuseet, Umeå, Sweden, February 9 – April 21, 2003.

Contemporary Arab Representations is produced by Fundació Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona in association with Witte de With, Rotterdam; Universidad Internacional de Andalucía (UNIA); Arteleku, San Sebastián, and Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart.