Friday, 11 October 2019, 06.00 PM-07.30 PM
Is the idea of a Mediterranean as an integrated space a useful category in understanding the contemporary, globalized period? If so, which actors recur to the concept and in which contexts is it applied? Does it compete or coexist with other spaces – national, religious or cultural notions of belonging, or a globally connected world? Inspired by salon conversations of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, we invite the participants to reflect upon and discuss these questions from a Lebanese point of view. How relevant are ideas and practices linked to the Mediterranean in contemporary Lebanese lives and identities, society and culture? Three major artists from the Lebanese cultural and artistic sphere, whose biographies all include trans-Mediterranean experiences, accepted our invitation to present their works as starting points for a fruitful debate.
The three interventions will tackle the Lebanese Mediterranean from different perspectives: From Chaza Charafeddine’s bird’s eye view, contemporary Lebanese society appears entangled in global migratory movements, cultural imaginaries, and structures of power. From Charif Majdalani’s diachronic perspective on Lebanese imaginaries, the Mediterranean coast comes into view as a place of exodus, associated with exile and emigration. Mounira al-Solh’s close-up grasps the Mediterranean as a part of the natural Lebanese environment, experienced as a liquid element in daily life. All three participants share a high sensitivity with regard to the destinies and personalities of the human beings they portray, and all of them challenge our common understanding of the Mediterranean, inviting the public to question their perceptions of both Lebanese society and the world beyond.
The Salon is part of the workshop „Questioning the Mediterranean: (Self-)Representations from the Southern Shore, ca. 1800 –2000“, held at the Orient Institut Beirut from October, 10–13.
Please note that the talk by Charif Majdalani will be given in French.
Chaza Charafeddine (Lebanon), Maidames, 2017-18, photography
Chaza Charafeddine, a Lebanese artist and writer, lived and worked in Switzerland and Germany for many years before returning to Beirut in 2007. In her works, she highlights overlooked facets and inserts seemingly unconventional elements into familiar imaginaries, thereby widening what is socially and culturally imaginable. At the salon, she will introduce parts of her photograph series “Maidames“(Agial Art Gallery, 2018), in which she reflects upon the presence of female migrant domestic workers in Lebanese households. The work does not only refer to power relations in the microcosm of Lebanese upper class households, but also on a global scale, as it shows the connections of Lebanese society in a context of global inequalities, and addresses among others, questions of global capitalism, migration, and gender relations.
Charif Majdalani is a francophone novelist and professor of French Literature at Université Saint-Joseph, whose novels have been decorated with prestigious prices such as the Prix Tropiques for Caravansérail (2007) and the Prix Jean Giono for Villa des femmes (2015). In his novel L’Empereur à pied (2017), he had masterfully traced the condition libanaise of his protagonists, several generations of sons torn between their origins in the Mountain and the world beyond. In his contribution to the salon, Charif Majdalani will reflect upon the Mediterranean in the Lebanese imaginary, describing the paradox of a Mediterranean country turning its back to the Sea.
Mounira al-Solh (Lebanon/Netherlands), Paris without a Sea, 2007-08, video, from: The Sea is a Stereo.
Mounira al-Solh is a Lebanese-Dutch artist whose works have been exhibited, among others, in the Venice Biennale (2007, 2015), and at documenta 14 in Kassel/Athens (2017). In her multi-faceted work, relying on a broad range of techniques, she has often treated topics of belonging and migration, and tried to unearth the individual in larger processes and structures. At the salon, we are going to screen her video “Paris without a Sea” from the project “The Sea is a Stereo”. The video focuses on swimmers at Beirut’s Ain al-Mreissé, thus granting us a very personal and sensual approach to the Mediterranean as a lived space, and merging her personal Mediterranean biography with larger structures.