Zena el Khalil | from Mirfaq to Vega
October 21, 2014 | January 10, 2015
extended until January 17
opening October 20 | 6 – 10 pm
From October 21, 2014 until January 10, 2015 Giorgio Persano gallery presents from Mirfaq to Vega, a solo exhibition by the Lebanese artist Zena el Khalil (b. 1976). Versatile cultural agitator based in Beirut, during the 2006 invasion of Lebanon, she was one of the first largely followed Middle Eastern bloggers; her book, Beirut, I Love You, is translated into several languages. In 2012 she was made a TED Fellow. Today, in this exhibition she presents a new and complex project.
With installations, videos and large canvases, she uses her family history to create a more personal understanding of what may be, today, one of the most tragic and violent places in the world – the Middle East.
After 22 years of occupation, the Israeli army, on May 25, 2000 – within 24 hours – withdrew its troops from Lebanon. Zena el Khalil’s father’s home, in Hasbaya, at the time was turned into a military zone and within the very rooms he grew up in, the Israeli army used to imprison and interrogate people. During the occupation, the Israeli army built a bunker of reinforced concrete, near an ancient oak tree.
“After they left, it took many years for us to reconcile with the subjugation of our personal space and move forward. The challenge was to disassemble the concrete structure without destroying the tree.”
Latent memories led Zena to create a new artistic project around her personal history, her land and her ancestry.
During the French occupation of the Levant, Zayd al Atrash, along with Zena’s great grandfather Fadlallah al Atrash, composed a war poem – a qasida, as they were escaping from the French. Years later, Zayd gave the poem to his niece Asmahan, a Syrian Druze singer, who rose to fame in the late 1930s and died mysteriously, very young. She turned it into a song. Ya Dirati – My Home. My home, don’t blame us. Blame those who betrayed you. We quenched the thirst of our swords with blood of our foes. Unlike the traitors we’ll never cheapen you for a price.
Within the solitude of a destroyed house, the artist began her research. “The journey began with setting fire to the white veil worn by the women of my region. From the ashes, I created ink that investigates the absence of light. Through paintings, drawings, video, sound and sculptural works, I question the unseen and the unknown. From fire, we create life. From destruction, we find the strength to construct meaning in our lives. If stars destroy themselves, then maybe it’s only natural for us to do the same.”
Within the sounds, lights, words, gestures, and signs that accompany each artwork of this exhibition, we find splinters of Zena el Khalil’s story:
“This work is about home.
About the homes we had, and the homes we lost and the people who destroyed them. But, ultimately my work is about forgiveness, love and compassion.”
A House from Aley, 2014