Tribute to Etel Adnan at the Lebanese Pavilion for the closing of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia

The Lebanese Pavilion organised a series of events from 19 to 21 November 2021 for the closing of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, to celebrate the enthusiastic response of critics and the public, and to present the following steps of the installation.

Hala Wardé, the French-Lebanese architect and founder of the HW Architecture firm, who designed the Louvre Abu Dhabi with Jean Nouvel, conceived A Roof for Silence like a musical sheet, crafting disciplines, shapes and periods resonating to provoke the sensitive experience of a thought articulated around the notions of emptiness and silence. The project is born from an artwork of poet and artist Etel Adnan and is based on the cryptic forms of a group of sixteen olive trees, thousands of years old, in Lebanon.

The Lebanese Pavilion’s closing ceremony was held on Saturday 20 November 2021 at 6:00 p.m. A few dozen guests attended the ceremony, including the President of the Biennale Roberto Cicutto. In an intimate setting, architect Hala Wardé paid a last tribute to Etel Adnan, who passed away on 14 November 2021 in Paris, in the heart of the central architectural piece that she conceived to house her poem-in-painting “Olivéa, Homage to the goddess of the olive tree”.

A simple and discreet ceremony

The lights of the Magazzini del Sale, the site of the Lebanese Pavilion during the six months of the Biennale, were turned off for the occasion. Dozens of candles gave off their orange glow in the space. They were laid out on the ground along the trail of glass, a fractal metamorphosis materializing both the impact of the explosion of the 4 August 2020 in the city of Beirut, the traces of tree hollows, and the antiforms. The guests were invited in a slow procession to walk towards the architectural piece housing Etel’s artwork, a circular and octagonal building of glass and light, with a semi-spherical roof.

They stood listening amongst the olive trees of Bchaaleh, as projected in a triptych film. The ceremony opened with Etel Adnan’s voice from an interview in which she evokes her inspiration in painting, poetry, and silence:

“Painting has taught me a lot philosophically. It is a language, like music, trees, speak as much as words, even more than words.

When I say more,… they touch areas that the words don’t touch. So the painting speaks but it says what is not necessarily meant to be said in words.

A painting is not meant to be translated into words. It is not meant to be explained, nor is music.

Arts open up worlds parallel to the world reached by speech. Silence reaches worlds. In silence there is a meaning, often, if not always. So there are other worlds besides the world reached by words. “

Night – Reading of poems

Hala Wardé, accompanied by the artist Mika, read poems from Etel Adnan’s book “Night”:

“Standing trees sleep in this forest that created the night when the moon was looking elsewhere. Gone the sailboats, the sea, in this obscurity that’s keeping no promise

A field of rosebushes has been flattened by the wind.

Shadows strangely resemble yesterday’s trees, yesterdays and tomorrows being the walls of our prisons.

Those shadows have been landed us into taxis and houses, telling the light to stay outside

but the moon was right not to bother”

Closing words

The architect then pronounced a more personal word to pay tribute to the artist with whom she shared a long-standing friendship and who accompanied her throughout the Venetian adventure:

“It was only a few days before the lights went out on the Venice Biennale, to which she lent her colours, that Etel Adnan chose to leave us.

We want to see this as a deep sign; that of the magical whisper that her life and her work of creation have been. The silence watched over by the 16 olive trees painted by Etel is the one she has now decided to rediscover; the silence, too, of a country still deafened by its implosion; her own silence, and behind which we will continue, through all the songs in the world, to guess her voice. “

With these simple yet moving words, alike the short ceremony, the Lebanese Pavilion and this first Venetian chapter of the project A Roof for Silence were closed.

Conceived as an itinerant and nomadic work, it will hit the road again and be reinstalled in different variations, settling temporarily in dedicated places. You will be able to discover the installation, in its different forms, during its next exhibitions from 15 April to 4 September 2022 at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and from 15 June to 31 October 2022 at the heart of the Abbey of Jumièges in Normandy.

A commitment to Beirut

The Lebanese Pavilion in Venice aims to raise awareness about the challenges of the reconstruction of the cultural and architectural heritage damaged by the explosion of 4 August 2020 in Beirut. To this end, it has joined forces with the Beirut Heritage Initiative (BHI), who was invited during the six months of the Biennale to present its activities within the Pavilion.

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