Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Zena el Khalil - "Maybe One Day Beirut Will Love Me Back"

Binge Drinking, Mixed Media 69 x 180 cm (2008)

It is the absence of glue that binds

Beyond the glitter, the vibrant colors, the political propaganda, the Arabic pop cultural references and the knickknacks bought from Arout in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Zena el Khalil’s latest body of work takes her study of place one step further to include questions of structure and stability. She confronts an important issue concerning the physical production of art in a city as contradictory as Beirut. How can an artist work with materials of permanency when local forms political and socio-economic stability are non-existent?

Having long established her visual iconographic language, the pieces included in “Maybe one day Beirut will Love me Back” are ever more reflective of her artistic response to her environment. This current exhibition sees Zena creating smaller, personal sized, wall-mounted versions of pervious large-scale installations. When the question of adhesives arose, she persisted in a manner reflective of her environment: work with what is available. The practical solution to the structural issues Zena was looking to resolve came in the form of an ordinary household object used for arts and crafts: the pushpin.

The pushpin enables the pieces to transform, mutate and alter; mimicking the adaptability needed in order to inhabit a city where inconsistency is permanent. The inability to plan from month to month, week to week and even day to day is symbolized in her use of a moveable, more easily adjustable medium. The glue gun that has long been a staple in the construction of her previous work no longer carries the same significance. The choice of a precarious yet sturdy adhesive is in direct response to an existential need for more flexibility.

Delicate yet sharp, the pointed end of the pushpin pierces through the object, creating tiny holes. Several are used at a time in order to better hold objects in place. However, with the slightest disturbance, any force that removes the pins from their positions causes everything to fall creating a metaphor for the current cultural climate from which these pieces were born. As long as no one removes the pushpins, life goes on. Once the pushpins are removed, things immediately fall until one by one the pins are replaced in order for the rebuilding and reconstruction to start again.

- Christine O'Heron for the Exhibition Catalogue "Maybe One Day Beirut Will Love Me Back" currently in London at the Flawless Gallery from the 4th of October to the 19th of October


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