Taymour Grahne Gallery is proud to present Records for Uncertain Times, Lamia Joreige’s first solo exhibition in the United States. A visual artist and filmmaker based in Beirut, Lebanon, Lamia Joreige uses archival documents and elements of fiction to reflect on history and its possible narration, and the relation between individual stories and collective memory. Her practice is rooted in Lebanon’s historic experiences, and explores the possibilities of representation of the Lebanese wars and their aftermath, particularly in Beirut, a city at the center of much of her practice. Joreige's work essentially centers on the recording of time, of its trace and its effects on us, underlining the process of memory and the impossibility of accessing a complete narrative. The exhibition includes several interconnected and ongoing projects set in the context of Beirut among which, her latest body of work: One Night of Sleep, Under–Writing Beirut – Mathaf and Under–Writing Beirut – Nahr.
The ongoing project Under–Writing Beirut looks at historically and personally significant locations within Beirut. Like a palimpsest, it incorporates various layers of time and existence, creating links between the traces that record such places’ previous realities and the fiction that reinvents them.
Mathaf (the Arabic word for museum), is the first chapter of this project and focuses on the neighborhood where Joreige currently lives in Beirut. The area, known as Mathaf, is home to the National Museum of Beirut. During the wars, and despite preservation efforts made by the museum conservator, the museum’s building was destroyed and parts of its small, yet impressive collection were severely damaged, looted, or lost. In Under–Writing Beirut – Mathaf (2013), Joreige addresses the impossibility of accessing these artifacts in the museum’s storage as well as its archives, and to the only objects made available from them: the damaged ‘Good Shepherd Mosaic’ and a photograph documenting it from the time of the wars, when a sniper made a hole into it to have a strategic view onto the museum square.
By reenacting the sniper's line of sight, the video 180 Degree Garden View puts us in the sniper’s position to imagine what he saw and whom he may have killed through this hole. Object of War, is the negative of the sniper hole cast as a concrete sculpture. Its initial impetus rests on the practice of the imprint as a trace of contact with a body or void. Rather than standing in as a replica, the sculpture moves away from the exactness of reproduction towards the freedom of reformulation. Then, as if impersonating this sniper and envisioning his perspective of the city, Joreige created pinhole camera views ‘shooting’ at the museum from the window of her apartment, in her series entitled Views of Museum Square.
Joreige juxtaposes these pinholes and other fragments and traces of both Beirut and the museum’s past with One Night of Sleep (2013), images of her own body lying in sleep, somewhere between life and death. In this series of photograms the artist attempted to capture the movement of her body and the passage of time while sleeping on photographic paper. These camera-less images are at once imprints of a physical presence and records of immaterial time unfolding. For a period of three months, twice a week Joreige would sleep on a wooden board under a ceiling light, which was programmed with various times of exposure depending on the day. Each night her sleeping length varied. When first revealing the prints, nothing came out, the print was almost entirely black. Joreige kept on trying and one day, something appeared on the paper. The results are ghostly traces of the body leaving its white presence on the sheet.
In the gallery’s lower level space, the artist presents Nahr (“River” in English), the second chapter of her ongoing project Under–Writing Beirut, investigating the urban areas adjacent to Beirut’s river, a neighborhood Joreige knows well, having co-founded (along with Sandra Dagher) the Beirut Art Center in the area. The abandoned river has turned into a dumping site for surrounding factories and passers by. The recent and rapid transformation of this area invites a reflection on several intertwined aspects that engage the river and its surroundings. The first revolves around the location of Nahr Beirut in relation to the city and engages with the ideas of borders and landscape. The second aspect takes up the diverse migrant population that has historically been located at the periphery of the city, which led to the creation of settlements by the river, and later termed the “belt of misery.” One last aspect involves the potential for gentrification of this area, one of the few remaining underexploited spaces in the capital, starting with the rapid development of what has long been a non-residential neighborhood of derelict character, into a place of interest for art practitioners and soon, a high-rise residential development, and a site for ambitious plans to rehabilitate the river. The future of the river is unknown, as is the coexistence of all the communities living in the area. Today the river is mostly dry and the border it once defined is no longer visible. The limit of the city is indeterminate and continues to expand.
Under–Writing Beirut – Nahr (2014-2015) raises a series of questions: What kind of narratives can emerge from and be triggered by such places, rather than represent them? How has political decision-making or lack thereof transformed the area and how does it translate into its everyday life, making this area the space where Lebanon’s most crucial problems converge? How does such a place affect and inform the production of art?
In conjunction with Joreige’s opening, Taymour Grahne Gallery is excited to launch a 72-page exhibition catalogue, with texts by Rabih Mroue and Chad Elias, as well as a conversation between Joreige and Etel Adnan.
Joreige has written, directed and produced work ranging from multimedia installations to short videos and essay films, while her practice tends to incite viewers’ active participation, adding a further level of engagement to the layers of subjective histories typically addressed in her work. Joreige is also the author of three publications Under–Writing Beirut – Mathaf (2013), Time and the Other (2004), and Ici et peut-être ailleurs (2003). She has contributed to numerous publications and panels. She is also part of the Edgware Road project organized by the Serpentine gallery in London, and is a co-founder of the Beirut Art Center (BAC), a non-profit space dedicated to contemporary art in Lebanon. She co-directed BAC from its opening in January 2009 until March 2014.
Born in Lebanon in 1972, Lamia Joreige lives and works in Beirut. She earned her BFA in Painting and Filmmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, in 1995. The artist’s work has been presented and collected by prominent global institutions including the New Museum, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; M – Museum Leuven, SFMOMA, San Francisco; The Tate Modern, London; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Sharjah Biennial; Venice Biennale; Goteborg Biennial; Mathaf, Doha; International Center of Photography, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Roskilde, Denmark; Modern Art Oxford, UK; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; Nicéphore Niépce Museum, France; Ashkal Alwan, Beirut; Townhouse gallery, Egypt.