Pascal Hachem uses kinetic installations to explore feelings of being trapped.
In “The Show Has a Long Title That I Don’t Recall Anymore” Beirut-based artist Pascal Hachem presents a series of kinetic installations that explore how fragmentation and precarity affect everyday life. Art Radar takes a look at the works in the exhibition.
In its reference to memory, the title of Lebanese artist and designer Pascal Hachem’s current solo exhibition prepares the viewer for a project that follows his contemporary generation of Lebanese conceptual artists such as Walid Raad, Akraam Zaatari or Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige. Yet, if the viewer was expecting a deep dive into the ruptured narratives of history in the context of the ongoing civil war in Lebanon, Pascal Hachem cuts the viewer short. The artist cannot even remember the title of the exhibition.
In “The Show Has a Long Title That I Don’t Recall Anymore” at London’s The Mosaic Rooms until 2 December 2017, Pascal Hachem experiments with methodologies for exploring the relationship between life and disposability. In his analysis of contemporary life in Beirut, the designer sees disposability everywhere: in economic precarity in his home city of Beirut, in a globalised media that both consumes and disregards certain images, in the sometimes simultaneous hyper circulation and destruction of personal and public archives. In this exhibition Pascal Hachem poses the question:
When faced with life in a city of both daily instability and overwhelming fragmentation, how do we remember our past?
The exhibition presents a series of installations, the majority of which consist of domestic objects like glasses, clothes, an iron, flour, brushes. In each of the works these goods are arranged into constellations, some of which are presented in a kinetic look, requiring viewers to shift their approach to these everyday articles and the gallery space itself.
In Left Under (2017) a set of mechanised wire brushes continually sweep the wall, revealing the paint layers from previous exhibitions. In Back to Square One (2017) a pair of irons move back and forth, imprinting lightly on a pile of flour. In the basement gallery, in the installation The stone in my pocket, nine pairs of trousers hang suspended in the air. The leg of one pair of trousers lifts, repeatedly dropping a stone against a mirror, which at some point will shatter.
Trained as an engineer, Hachem’s knowledge of engines and industrial materials has offered a particular approach to mechanised art making. He uses daily objects and manages to extract their nature and their primary identity thanks to unusual associations and layouts. Hachem’s “machines” inevitably cause a cognitive dissonance, arising from the tension between the familiarity of the objects and the strangeness of their movement. As The Mosaic Rooms’ press statement describes, “Hachem activates these passive objects to become subjects, resonant with the potential for action.”
The artistic strategies deployed in the artist’s installations are reminiscent of those rehearsed in the 1960s happenings as well as the 1970s and 1980s kinetic art movement, two very different strands of conceptual art. However, in contrast to the 1960s happenings, in “The Show Has a Long Title That I Don’t Recall Anymore”, Hachem makes interventions to the gallery environment without actually being present.
These actions are also comparatively meditative and controlled when considering the large scale interventions and discursively charged gestures of the 1960s and 1970s – from Alan Kaprow’s happenings in North America to the Tucaman Arde group in Argentina, or the feminist performance and happenings, from Adriene Piper and WomanHouse to the Mexican troupe Pollo de Gallina Negra. With the body absent in the current exhibition, Pascal Hachem allows the objects to speak for him. Perhaps that is why the exhibition title performs its own unimportance.
In testing the viewer’s mechanisms of recognition of domestic objects and the gallery space itself, the artist implores the viewer to pay closer attention to the artefacts that surround us in our domestic and industrial settings, suggesting a possible future in alternative arrangements and assemblages.
In an interview with Phaidon, Pascal Hachem explains that his practice
is inspired by and materializes my feeling of being trapped by a lot of things that surround me in everyday life. Even my religion can feel suffocating. My way to deal with these elements of everyday life is by simple action of happenings, making use of them to express my condition of existence. My obsessive attention to the details which hide themselves within the folds of our communities and human relationships, is the result of my daily approach to life in Beirut, a city caught between danger and hope, excitement and disappointment.
The artist continues:
Through these artworks, I place the viewer in uncomfortable situations that also seem puzzlingly familiar. My reflection involves displacing actions. They are real actions, not videos, performed either by me or by objects that I set up. I don’t impose any set of rules upon myself, but rather am prompted by nothing but a single impressionable moment, to declare!”
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