Beirut closes in Cairo


May 19, 2015

Beirut closes in Cairo

A moment later, he asked, “Is Beirut your final destination or are you headed somewhere else?”

“No,” I said, “Beirut.”
“East or West?”

I was about to answer automatically that I was going to East, then I remembered that Beirut is the only place in the world today where political alignments are just the opposite of their geographical locations.

“West,” I replied. “And you?”
“I have business in a lot of places.” *

A line is drawn.

Not through the city, or to cross her out. Beirut moves on. After three years of intense work and action, framed by two labor days, her premise has changed. As of 1 May 2015, Beirut is no longer based at her current address.

A form is shaped by a curve.

The reasons are many. Primarily, we all hinge on support—practically and conceptually—the support we receive and how we, as institutions, can support the evolution of ideas, the artists we live with, the community we work within. The shifting nature of this “support” as a collective mindset creates a demand to rethink how institutions become, and ultimately how they act.

In the manifest collapse of labor, work and action Beirut cannot be sustained in Cairo, politically and personally. Her mission changes: closing the primary premise opens up other futures, being imagined as we write and speak. We learn (the most) in curves.

A line meets itself.

Beirut’s beginning was marked by Labour in a Single Shot in a workshop led by the late Harun Farocki and Antje Ehmann. Role play, economy and the(ir) image entangled in sites of labor, were pictured in Beirut’s very first exhibition with Maryam Jafri’s Global Slum.

Almost three years later, Beirut‘s denouement of location reflects on How to Act: On Stages and Storytellers with Philip Rizk and Jasmina Metwaly, inspired by their references accompanying Out on the Street (2015), a film dealing with closing factories and conditions of labor and revolt—the plight of privatization in Egypt.

A shape forms a circle.

Yet this was not her last day at work. Beirut remains active and is currently undergoing a series of projects.

In first place she is close to graduating the Imaginary School Program with individual projects and a collective publication emerging from questions rethinking institutions and forms of organizing.

White Paper is a chaptered exhibition project with Adelita Husni-Bey traveling from Cairo (2014) and Utrecht (2015) to Spain (2016) to investigate the relationship between legislation, notions of property and agency.

A new film by Anja Kirschner, co-produced and supported by Beirut on the ground, will be shot from May to June between Athens, Rome, Cairo and other places.

A new commission to artists, activists and filmmakers Jasmina Metwaly and Philip Rizk will commence this fall with a workshop and more as part of DRAFT, a network across several cities initiated by ZHdK in Zurich and Khanabadosh in Bombay.

A circle makes a loop.

On square one we once said, “Beirut does not exist.” From here and elsewhere Beirut continues to make, say, do, think and write. Until 2016, she is on a sabbatical in more than one place and imagines herself in other intellectual pursuits, collaborative commissions, observing writing, while conjuring new scenarios of collective labor, work and action.

A form is shaped by other circles.

We would like to alphabetically thank our partners, collaborators and supporters: 98weeks, Adam Mickiewicz Institute, Arab Digital Expression Foundation (ADEF), Arab Fund for Art and Culture (AFAC), ArtEast Zine, Art in General, Arts Collaboratory, Beirut Art Center, Biennale Jogja, British Academy International Partnership Scheme, British Council, Camera Austria, Casco, Center for Contemporary Art (CCA) Derry~Londerry, Cimatheque, Cluster, Contemporary Image Collective (CIC), Corner College in Zurich,, Ernst Schering Foundation, Foundation for Arts Initiatives (FfAI), FormContent, Goethe Institut, Gypsum Gallery, Institute for Contemporary Art Research (IFCAR), Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa), Institut Française d’Egypte, Isabella Bortolozzi, Kadist Art Foundation, Kamel Lazaar Foundation, Khanabadosh, Kunsthalle Lissabon, Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art (KW), Lisson Gallery, LUX Artists’ Moving Image, Mada Masr, Medrar, Mondriaan Fonds, Movin’Up Fund, Nile Sunset Annex, Robert Bosch Stiftung, Roberto Cimetta Fund, Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Sharjah Art Gallery (AUC), Stedelijk Museum, Steirischer Herbst, Stichting Doen, Takween, Titulo Apelativo, Townhouse Gallery, Tycho, UK Arab Film Festival, Van Abbemuseum, Viafarini, Young Arab Theatre Fund (YATF), Zurich University of the Arts (Zhdk).

A special thank you to the countless generous individuals without whom Beirut would never be possible in the first place.

*liberally adapted from Sonallah Ibrahim’s novel Beirut Beirut