On 7 June 2016 Jeu de Paume opened an exhibition by Lebanese artistic team Hadjithomas and Joreige reflecting work dating from the 1990s to the present.
The current exhibition “Se Souvenir de la Lumière” (Remembering the light) presents Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige’s investigations into temporality, the construction of history and imagination, and the ways in which images persist despite the oppression of violence and war.
The self-taught, artistic duo, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (b. 1969, Beirut) have a collective oeuvre, which includes film, documentary, photography and installation. As stated in the exhibition press release:
Self-taught, they became filmmakers and artists out of necessity in the aftermath of the Lebanese civil wars. Their very personal search, close to their encounters, leads them to explore the sphere of the visible and the absence, feeding a fascinating back and forth between life and fiction. Over fifteen years, their artistic films and works produced from personal or political records, developing stories kept secret stories facing the dominant story. They are interested in the emergence of the individual in Community companies and the difficulty of living a present.
This current exhibition at Jeu de Paume in Paris, “Se souvenir de la lumière” (Remembering the Light) includes works spanning from the 1990s to the present day and as the press release states, “is a reflection on the issues of representation in contemporary societies”. The exhibition contains two new works, Se souvenir de la lumière, co-produced by Sharjah Art Foundation, and ISMYRNE co-produced by Jeu de Paume and Sharjah Art Foundation.
“Se Souvenir de la Lumière” is organised into five chapters representing the artists’ investigations into the image: how are images affected by violence and war? How to embody the invisible through the latency of images, and their persistence? How can images deflect or displace the imaginary and the gaze? Can virtual images taken from the internet become the rumours of the world? Finally, how to situate the poetry in opposition to the chaos of today’s world?
The latent potential of images is a particular characteristic towards which the artists give much attention. The press release also explains:
Their works have attempted to show what exists without being immediately visible. They have worked a lot with illustrations of latency in their artistic approach as well as in their filmic approach. “Latency, is the state that exists in an unrelated manner, but which may at any time be manifested,” explain the artists.
These questions form the background of Hadjithomas and Joreige’s work and thus a part of their research and preparatory process necessitates engagement with political and historical archives, as well as personal and familial stories. Their concern, however, is the present, and they view an engagement with the past as a means to better understand the current day.
Understandably Beirut, their hometown, and by extension Lebanon is a primary site for their field work. In the work, Le Cercle de Confusion (The Circle of Confusion), the image reveals an aerial view of Beirut cut into 3,000 photographic fragments. On the reverse side of each fragment the phrase “Beirut does not exist.” is written. The viewer is invited to take one of the fragments, and underneath each fragment is a small mirror which shows the image of the viewer, and eventually, when all are removed, the surrounding installation. This work speaks of a city in a constant state of flux. It is neither what it appears, nor what is reflected.
Both artists have been personally touched by the political events of Lebanon’s recent past. In 1985 Joreige’s uncle was taken during the civil war, and he is still a part of the 17,000 Lebanese citizens who disappeared during this period of unrest. In 2001 Hadjithomas and Joreige found the personal archive belonging to Joreige’s uncle. Among the various documents and images, they identified a “latent film”. This Super-8 film was undeveloped and had survived the ravages of the war. The resultant image became the work Images Rémanentes (Persistent Images).
In addressing the aforementioned questions contextualised within the recent historical realities of Lebanon and its political unrest, Hadjithomas and Joreige’s work constitutes a multi sensory, interactive experience. With an acute awareness of how the present can influence one’s understanding of the past, Hadjithomas and Joreige have put forth work that like latent images possesses a potential not yet manifested. The audience experiences installations that play with notions of space but also history and temporality, with a view towards initiating an active and critical relationship with the image in the now.
Negarra A. Kudumu
- “I must first apologies…”: Lebanese artist duo investigates internet fraud – August 2014 – “I Must First Apologise…” is a thought-provoking multimedia exhibition at the Villa Arson in Nice
- War, art and the Lebanese space race: Joana Hadjithomas and Khalid Joreige – Guggenheim Talk – December 2013 – filmmakers and artists Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige discussed their works in relation to the history of Lebanon and the impact of the Lebanese Civil War at the Guggenheim, New York
- Gritty streets and neon lights: the urban chaos of artist Daido Moriyama at Foundation Cartier, Paris – May 2016 – Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris launched a major show of the Japanese photographer’s most recent work in February 2016
- Lifting the veil: photography and video by Kazakhstan’s Almagul Menlibayeva – artist profile – February 2016 – Kazakh artist Almagul Menlibayeva captures the unknown, multifaceted history of one of the most misunderstood regions in the world
- Technicolour and the silver screen: Youssef Nabil – interview – October 2015 – Art Radar speaks with Youssef Nabil about his recent work
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