Re-Thinking Beirut - Press Release

MAST (Museum of Social and Territorial Art) Artistic Director: Claudia Zanfi

After presenting a number of projects dedicated to the culture of Cyprus, for the first time in Italy aMAZElab, the cultural lab dealing largely with micro-geography and emerging cultures, proposes “Re-Thinking Beirut” (27th March – 13th May), a series of events and visual installations for Spring 2007 in Milano.

Dedicated to the current cultural, social and geo-political aspects of the city, the project sets out to investigate contemporary Beirut life, a city highly representative of the complexity of the Lebanese mosaic, through the contributions of intellectuals of the highest level, as well as through an arts exhibition programme accompanied by a cycle of conferences.
From an economic point of view, the legend of Beirut is rooted in a history of thriving trade, thanks both to its international port and its highly efficient banking system. From a social point of view, it is based on the possibility it offers to live – in the words of the intellectual Albert Hurani – in two or three words at the same time, without really belonging to any of them. Beirut is a city continually threatened by material destruction (from the 1975-1991 conflicts, to the more recent bombings) and whose memory is closely bound up in its own shattered image. At the same time, it is a city in which new energies continually come to the fore, along with new capital, new projects and new forms of socio-cultural development.
On the basis of this multi-faceted point of view, and with the use of a multi-disciplinary approach, (with contributions from artists, architects, sociologists, geographers, journalists, etc.) the project sets out to investigate the new urban geography, both physical and mental: the former represented by the new territorial occupation and the rapid urban and social transformations; the latter, by the city’s relationship with itself, through its socio-cultural nature and its pluralism. An enormous collage of images and words, a visual installation including:

Walid Raad, artist and creator of the “The Atlas Group” project; Akram Zaatari, artist and co-founder of the “Arab Image Foundation”; Tony Chakar, architect and theorist; Jalal Toufic, writer, cinema theorist and video-artist; Walid Sadek artist and writer; Bilal Kbheiz, poet, essayist and journalist; Paola Yacoub and Michel Lasserre, architects and sociologists; Bernard Khoury, architect and theorist; Rabih Mrouè, actor and playwright; Samir Kassir, historian and journalist, involved in investigating the democratic identity of Lebanon who came up with the 2005 “Beirut Spring” mass movement which led to the liberation of the country from Syrian occupation, a commitment which cost him his life. These are just some of the most important figures which, for more than a decade, have fuelled the cultural renaissance of the city and of Lebanon as a whole. Re-Thinking Beirut stands as a reflection on the intellectual, political and social life of the country, in a reading aimed at bringing contemporary Lebanese culture ever closer.

The programme will also be enhanced by a series of meetings at Triennale Museum Milano, with a number of cultural representatives: Paolo Branca (Islamist, University of Milan), Marcella Schmidt and Fabrizio Eva (Geo-politics Department, Bicocca University of Milan), L.E.FT (Architects, Beirut/NYC) + Arch. Stefano Boeri; Nadim Karam (Artist and architect, Beirut); Manuela E.B. Giolfo (Professor, Torino University) + Ensemble Takht Cham (Arab musicians).
Readings from the Lebanese writers Elias Khuri, Barakat Hoda and others.

With the support of: European Cultural Foundation, Amsterdam;
Assessorato Cultura, Provincia di Milano; ArtBook Triennale, Milano

With kind collaboration: Ashkal Alwan Foundation, Beirut