In “Records for Uncertain Times
,” a timely exhibition at Taymour Grahne
gallery, Lebanese artist
investigates a similar tragedy from the not-so-distant past: the looting and loss of art from the National Museum of Beirut during the Lebanese wars. By considering the current state of the museum alongside its fraught, partially obscured past, Joreige explores the porous overlap of personal and political memory.
For much of the 20th century, Beirut served as a battleground for a string of conflicts that ravaged the country. On several occasions, the museum doubled as barracks. It is an aspect of Beirut’s history that many would rather forget. For instance, there is no public record of the vanished and damaged artworks. Under–Writing Beirut – Mathaf (2013), the major work and conceptual core of Joreige’s exhibition, questions this kind of inaccessibility and selective memory.
This multimedia, multi-part piece spans the length of the gallery, mapping the site of the museum and its historical underpinnings with a diverse range of text, images, and objects. At a glance, the installation reads as a history museum display of artifacts that explore the unique character or transformation of a city. At close range Under–Writing Beirut – Mathaf surfaces as an anthropological and psychological study of the lingering aftershocks of conflict.
A series of three small photographs depicting a large, jagged hole in the museum’s Good Shepherd Mosaic
feels like the crux of the installation. The hole was made by a wartime sniper in need of a lookout point, and these were some of the only images the museum would release when Joreige asked for information on damaged artworks. Inspired by these photographs, Joreige imagines the size of the sniper’s opening and his view of the city in a sculpture
and video, respectively. The scale of the hole in the sculptural relief is intentionally imprecise, and the street scene in the video is contemporary. Here, Joreige uses inaccuracy and anachronism to highlight the passage of time and malleability of memory.