Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, “The Golden Record”, From “Lebanese Rocket Society: Elements for a Monument”, 2011, Video and sound installation, 19′, Co-produced by the 11th Biennale de Lyon (2011).
Ashkal Alwan and Beirut Exhibition Center present How Soon is Now: A Tribute to Dreamers
by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige
29 February–20 April 2012
Beirut Exhibition Center
Beirut New Waterfront
Ashkal Alwan and Beirut Exhibition Center present How Soon is Now: A Tribute to Dreamers, an exhibition by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige. While not a retrospective, the show presents photographs, installations, objects, and videos from 1997 to 2012.
Two groupings—earlier works and the duo’s most recent multipart project—intersect and set up a dialogue around recurrent themes and formal approaches apparent throughout the exhibition. Using personal images and archives, the artworks propose narratives through diverse strategies of representation such as evocation and reenactment. They explore the traces of time and question our relation to history by attempting to articulate the hidden facets of events, of forgotten and secret stories.
The first group, produced over the past 15 years, displays research through imagery that chronicles the present in Beirut. Personal family and collective narratives, the disappearing image, perceptions of the city and its mutation since the end of the war—all are explored by photographing and filming momentary states.
Earlier works by Hadjithomas and Joreige such as Equivalences (1997), Bestiaries (1997), Circle of Confusion (1997), Barmeh/Rounds (2001) and Don’t Walk (2000–2004) grapple with representations of the city, its transformation, destruction and reconstruction. Others like Lasting Images (2003), 180 Seconds of Lasting Images (2006), and Latent Images (part of the project Wonder Beirut, 1996–2007), are concerned with the revelation of images through hidden or latent traces, and the conditions under which hidden imagery becomes visible.
While imagination plays a major role in the duo’s overall work, it is especially present in the second group shown in the exhibition. Presented for the first time in its entirety, Hadjithomas and Joreige’s most recent project, Lebanese Rocket Society, is an investigation of an Armenian-Lebanese space program initiated in the 1960s that successfully launched the first regional rocket. Founded by Manoug Manougian, a professor of math and physics at Haigazian University, along with students, the society soon incorporated civil engineers and experts from the Lebanese Army. Between 1960 and 1967—at the time of the Space Race, revolutionary ideas, and Pan-Arabism—more than ten increasingly large Cedar Rockets were designed, produced, and launched into the Lebanese sky in pursuit of scientific knowledge. The Lebanese Rocket Society was eventually halted and its story, which once made headlines, forgotten.
Lebanese Rocket Society is an ongoing project comprising a series of installations, and the feature documentary film Lebanese Rocket Society: The Strange Tale of the Lebanese Space Race (to be released in cinemas in the fall of 2012). The project attempts to make this hidden history reappear by reactivating it in the present; while avoiding nostalgia, a series of reenactments are staged that seek to give its absence a physical, material presence.
The installations in Lebanese Rocket Society: Elements for a Monument examine the 60s—the decade’s legacy and its notions of modernity and contemporaneity—and the possibility of projecting ourselves once more into dreams.
Cedar IV: A Reconstitution, Restaged, The President’s Album, The Golden Record, and A Carpet investigate the absence of the space program from our collective memory, shedding light on our perceptions of the past and present—and our imagination of the future.
The exhibition title, How Soon is Now: A Tribute to Dreamers, celebrates researchers, pioneers, utopians, and dreamers, and the role of imagination and dreams in shaping the possibility of a shared narrative today.
Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige collaborate as filmmakers and artists, producing intertwining cinematic and visual artwork. They have directed documentaries such as Khiam 2000–2007 (2008) and El Film el Mafkoud (The Lost Film, 2003), and feature films including Al Bayt el Zaher (The Pink House, 1999), A Perfect Day (2005), and Je veux voir (I want to see, 2008). Their artwork has been shown in many museums, biennials and art centers around the world, most recently at the 10th Sharjah Biennial (2011), 11th Biennale de Lyon (2011) and 12th Istanbul Biennial (2011). They are recipients of the 2012 Abraaj Capital Prize.
How Soon is Now: A Tribute to Dreamers is supported by Solidere (Beirut) and with contributions by CRG Gallery (New York), Galerie In SITU / Fabienne Leclerc (Paris), The Third Line (Dubai), and Keeward (Beirut).