About the Commission, from the Curators

Lebanese Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale
May 19, 2013 6:23PM

I am continuously haunted by the different subjects, characters and figures that I have dealt with in my work in the past. They often reappear in my life and manage to find a way into later works like the one that I will be presenting in Venice.”—Akram Zaatari

With these words, Akram Zaatari describes the new multimedia installation that he has created for the Lebanese Pavilion at this year’s 2013 Venice Biennial. Conceived as a theater of limitless possibilities, the work entitled Letter to a Refusing Pilot will act as a space of encounter where strangers from different worlds find themselves on stage face-to-face. While rooted in a local incident, the work transcends regional boundaries and touches upon issues that are universal in their reach and implications. Letter to a Refusing Pilot is a film and video installation that reflects on the many complexities, ambiguities and consequences of refusal as a decisive and generative act.

“Most fascinating about the project is how it oscillates between reality and myth, weaving elements of autobiography and collective memory, of rumor and historical fact.” 

Taking as its title a nod to Albert Camus’ Letter to a German Friend, the work not only extends Zaatari’s interest in excavated narratives and the circulation of images in times of war, it also raises crucial questions about national representation and perpetual crisis by reviving Camus’s plea, “I should like to be able to love my country, and still love justice.” In doing so, the work operates along an axis of interrogation that sits within the same vein of criticality that we had in mind for the pavilion itself.

“There are accidents in life that allow you to put your hands on something so precious,” Zaatari said upon the announcement of his selection last October, “a story that’s so informative of the time, of boundaries, of history, national identities and borders.” Up until the inauguration of this year’s biennial, artist, commissioner and us alike have decided to keep that story under wraps. The pavilion, lying at the heart of the Arsenale awaits the unraveling of a much-anticipated story.

Lebanese Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale