Zena el Khalil Sacred Catastrophe: Healing Lebanon

A project by Zena el Khalil

Exhibition curated by Beatrice Merz and Janine Maamari

18 September – 27 October 2017

Press conference on 18 September at 11 am

Beit Beirut, Intersection of Damascus Street and Independence Avenue (Sodeco Intersection),

Beirut, Lebanon

Beirut, 14th of July, 2017: The Fondazione Merz and Liban Art are delighted to present Sacred Catastrophe: Healing Lebanon, an art platform for peace and reconciliation by Zena el Khalil.

For 40 days, Zena el Khalil’s personal exhibition, accompanied by numerous events (workshops, conferences, performances, concerts, debates), will animate Beit Beirut, a symbol of the troubled history of Lebanon’s war. The building is located on the former “green line”, on what was a “no-man’s land” that during the Lebanese civil war served as a demarcation line dividing the city into two.

Zena el Khalil has always been deeply involved in the memory of the history of her country and of the consequences that have derived from it. Her work focuses on the consideration that art and culture can have a positive impact on the world. In particular, for this project she reflects on the will to transform an idea, an object, a place of violence into something that generates peace.

For the Beit Beirut exhibition, Zena el Khalil presents a series of paintings, sculptures, sound and video works distributed over the four floors of the building. The works presented in the exhibition are the result of a working method the artist has pursued in recent years, a process that begins with healing ceremonies in places that have endured violent experiences such as massacres, torture of human beings or also environmental disasters. By following a set of creative processes, negative energy residues are transmuted into love and light. On the first floor, the artist presents paintings she makes using intricate fabrics, such as kuffiyehs, dipped in a black ink she creates from ash and pigment. The photography and videos describe the places where the healing ceremonies have been held, showing the state of destruction as a result of the war. The artist uses artistic repetitions or “mantras” of the words love, forgiveness, and compassion in Arabic to relieve the buildings of their pain towards peace and reconciliation. The same words of peace, love, forgiveness and compassion are again the protagonists of ceramic and stone sculptures. A sound installation fills the entire exhibition space, linking all the works together. Finally, on the second and third floor, there is a single large installation, a “forest” of memory and remembrance of the 17,000 people declared missing in the conflict. The work also refers to the former “green line” where an abundance of foliage grew because the space was uninhabited. At the end of the project, a volume will be published to include the photographic documentation of the exhibition and events, together with contributions from poets, writers and critics.

The project is under patronage of Municipality of Beirut.