11 Jun 2011

Lebanese Interventionism, Venice Biennial 2011

A guerrilla handbag was commissioned of me by the curator of the 2009 Lebanese pavilion curators, that we might jointly project Lebanese artworks from around public spaces in Venice during the Biennial opening week.

I prepared by gutting an ordinary bag and giving it the limbs and portals it needed to hold a small projector. It was the intention to disguise the bag as a distinctly Italian object, using similar materials I use for my sound sculpture. Since the sculptures are about bringing the sound alive to you (in fact enlivening the part of you that responds to the sound), I felt the two branches were perfectly in tune; the Venice interventions being concerned with the appropriation of space and the mental state that makes something art, and the mental positioning we adopt that makes a country part of our identity.

So a team of us went out to meet Venice with 17 Unsent Postcards,  by Laure de Selys, my adapted handbag with projector and camera for documentation by the artist Michelle Eistrup. 17 Unsent Postcards was 9.50 mins of staged and documentary videos filmed in Lebanon, who had been selected to show at Biennial 2011 before the Lebanese national pavilion fell through. What was the result? One Neapolitan we met allowed me to project onto his back as he walked along, another Italian group stopped and during their inquiry one of them told me not only had he never seen anything from Lebanon in his life, he had never been inside an art gallery to see any art. We met an Venetian who had a Lebanese great-grandfather he was overjoyed, he said to both us and his entourage, to find this presence on the streets. It was super dynamics with Venice's dark waterways and worn walls complete with aeons of public communiques really creating the perfect setting. A culture where people do not hide behind car windows and highways, where everyone is walking at the same level, the same pace, the same routes....but still draw visible lines between the haves and have nots, and host the art world's most exclusive show of wealth and position.