I do want to do something.

A conversational space. Reviewing Walid Sadek’s exhibition, PLace at Last.
April 11, 2010, 12:10 pm
Filed under: Art stuff, Beirut notes, Learn me how to read

W: “The only place where conversation can happen is the space of art”

M: “Place at Last” your first solo exhibition in Beirut, suggested a certain relief. Perhaps from the restlessness of having to imperatively and ethically think forgiveness, mourning and violence in post war Lebanon? At last resonated as an equivocal acceptance with a touch of resignation, or as a discovery of something that might have already always been there. Place shifted the problem of how to address mourning in Lebanon to a geographical and spatial solution. Place implies a locality, an identifiable space where meeting is in fact possible.

M: I would personally like to understand the politics of the encounter and if this encounter is possible. Can art be that meeting place?  What do we know, not know, learn from by convening precisely there ?

M: What is the meaning of shared in “shared space”? You mentioned repeatedly the space of the encounter in a post-traumatic war context; how can stand next to one another

W: rub shoulders

M: As you once said. Bare a presence we are inevitably and often unwillingly bond to? With no claims of forgiveness nor unity, but simply appear to one another with no further political or moral implications (Harendt’s space of appearance). Your first suggestion was to meet around the presence of a corpse, because such presence, you argued, could delay the advent of naming and of language hijacking grief (can mourning be possible without language?).

M: A wall separated your show from the entrance of the Beirut Art Center, with a passage marking the entrance. A border that once trespassed would immerse us in a lawless and white room, a sort of sate of exception reconfiguring its boundaries and perspectives. Traditional orientation marks pertaining to the exhibition space such as captions, walls, images, texts, were radically reinvented through gestures meant to destabilize the space of representation. The room’s engulfing whiteness broke a sense of perspective. And the body, at last, perhaps, could find a space outside of it. (Or was it, paradoxically the very space of representation, an art center? Was white the white night in Blanchot’s The Writing of the Disaster or was it the white industrial paint of Beirut Art Center’s white walls?)

M: In Love is Blind, captions are placed on the wall indicating the name of a painting, its author, date of execution and collection, but the paintings were missing. The space corresponding to the dimensions of the painting is left intact, without its object, the painting. What does maintaining the space of representation while erasing is object produce? The structure is maintained through the demarcating frame (the space supposedly occupied by the painting) and through its referent (the caption).

M: Is that missing painting somewhere else? Did you eat it? Do we have to be precisely in that specific place to be able to see? Objects would then become invisible if displaced. Is that your understanding of Place? Is your dream the one of absolute equivalence between what is said and what is seen, between what is seen and where it is seen? Is the space of the encounter the back of a canvas or google’s browser? Amsterdam, Kiel, Paris, Bordeaux, Dole, Mr amd Ms Boshali living room?

M: Above each caption you placed a wall text- another caption- in Arabic whose translation was in the visitor’s guide. The Arabic texts all referred to classical paintings depicting the Roman allegory of Cimo and Pero; Pero, just having had a child, secretly breast-feeds her father who is sentenced to death and starvation in a roman prison.

Faroukh, Cimo and Pero, private collections, Love is Blind. Are you drawing a parallel between generosity and the lost of sight? Filial love in Cimo and Pero and the lost genealogies of Lebanese Modern Art? Cannibalism and nurturing?

(It is said that the cannibalistic person has a strong desire for milk and is fixated on sucking. It devours the lost object in the impossibility of letting go, making the mourning  melancholic and bodily.  Such cannibalistic device implies the suppression of the other. How do you envisage the encounter here? )

M: Do you think that conversations make for an encounter? Is my own form of address unanswerable?

M: In Infinite Conversations, Blanchot talks about one particular form of exchange implied in the master/ student relation and how such space is translated through dialogue. It is the opposite of the cannibalistic devouring since it is  the space of infinite distance;

“ le maitre n’est pas destine a applanir le champs des relations, mais a le boulverser, non a le faciliter les chemins du savoir, mais d’abord a les render non seulement plus difficle, mais proprement inefrayable…”

“Le maitre ne donne rien a connaitre qui ne reste determine par “l’inconnu” inderterminable qu’il represente, inconnu qui ne s’affirme que pas pas le mystere, le prestige, l’erudition de celui qui enseigne mais de la distance infinie entre A et B…”

M: Is the space of encounter the space of an infinite distance ? The infinite distance as a space for conversation, but also the infinite distance that is implied in my relation to others.

M: What do we know or do not know when we are in that space? She said that some people could not live without knowing (without knowing where their sons and daughters are). You said asked how can we live while knowing.

W: “How can you live on when you know that people have committed such acts of violence. What do you do with that excess knowledge?”

M: What you mean here is that we know because we have the ability to understand the distance;  The one that perpetrates the crime can’t question his act, while not having perpetrated the crime, I am also complicit because I know that something happened. It is a knowledge that shakes any identitarian affirmation.

M: How can the excess knowledge be redistributed or belong to the economy it was produced through? The excess knowledge that paradoxically wants to deconstruct identitarian affirmations also produces the unreachable other. (I know, while the other doesn’t).