MOUNIRA AL SOLH
Strongly Believe in Our Right to Be Frivolous
Opening Reception: Wednesday, April 13, 2016, 19:00–21:00
Exhibition Dates: April 14–July 3, 2016
Opening Hours: Tuesday–Saturdays, 13:00-21:00, Sundays 11:00-19:00
Alt Art Space presents Mounira Al Solh guest curated by Öykü Özsoy, with a new group of drawings, two installations and A La Santé des Alliés, 2015, a single channel video.
Alt’s inaugural season dedicated to contemporary issues of authorship.
Eleven million Syrians have fled their homes since the outbreak of civil war in March 2011, taking refuge in neighboring countries or within Syria itself. Twenty-five years after the end of its civil war, Lebanon has become a refuge for more than a million Syrians and already home to nearly 500,000 Palestinian refugees, Lebanon now has the second highest population of refugees after Turkey, which hosts two million refugees. A trajectory into the current influx of displaced people suggests at Al Solh’s ongoing work I Strongly Believe in Our Right to Be Frivolous, who places her own biography and privileged position as an artist at her disposal. Inspired by the artist’s interviews with Syrian refugees, Al Solh has portrayed displaced individuals and families in Lebanon through quick drawings, melting writing and pencil stroke, and sometimes collages together. They indicate brief moments of encounter with people, telling of their lives before they fled their country, or as they live now. Al Solh takes on the role of a witness to document dramatic changes forced upon people’s lives in times of political turmoil.
Mounira Al Solh’s installation Clogged, 2015, on-going, comprises clogs - wooden sandals which are typically worn in hammams (bath houses) - were handcrafted by a traditional craftsman in Damascus. The project started in Art Dubai in 2013, as part of the Art Dubai Projects curated by Fawz Kabra, and was meant to ask the Art Dubai crowd to exchange their fancy shoes with the clogs, thus to be reminded of the crisis while “shopping at an art-fair” in such an Arab country. In the context of this exhibition, visitors are also invited to change their shoes with a pair of traditional clogs for the duration of their encounter with the exhibition; in this way they become participants and performers as they walk through the space.
In his chapter “the imaginary of letters", Beydoun compares the meaning and origin as well as the choice of Arabs for certain letters and how these are pronounced and what meaning they generate, comparing and denying at once thoughts on the meaning of letters by Al Alayli and Al Chidyyaq, both prominent Lebanese linguists and translators. Why did Arabs choose the letter “m” where lips are bound together for plural for instance? And “n” for indicating the female plural?
On each side of each suspended patchwork we read a three-letters’ word, and the other side of the same curtain would use the same three letters in another order, thus creating another word. For example: sama'/ma'as meaning 'hearing', 'obeying/crush' or ‘sex’; bahr/harb meaning 'sea/war'; malik/lakam meaning 'king/to punch'. The juxtaposition of the sequence of letters creates whole different words with different meanings and implications; thus, audiences’ perceptions change depending on their position and perspective. In essence, Al Solh attempts with this work to contrast one’s point of view and context with the meaning of words and language in general.
Among the works in the exhibition, A La Santé des Alliés, a single channel video, recounts experiences of Mounira Al Solh’s ancestors in Lebanon and Syria during World War I, as well as moments from Nasserite and pan-Arab revolutionary movements of the 1950s and ‘60s, during which time her grandfather was assassinated. Al Solh takes personal narratives which is very political, social and sometimes feminist, and changes them in order to create a fiction that relates bigger narratives, even the world history and reflects the current exodus and instability in the Middle East.
Mounira Al Solh, who was born in Beirut in 1978, currently lives and works in Beirut and Amsterdam. Al Solh studied painting at the Lebanese University in Beirut (LB), and Fine Arts at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam (NL), where she was also research resident at the Rijksakademie in 2007 and 2008. Her selected solo exhibitions include NOW EAT MY SCRIPT, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Kunst-Werke Berlin e. V., Berlin, Germany, 2014; and suddenly there were women (Performance), Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Hague, The Netherlands and Center for Contemporary Art, Glasgow, UK, 2013; The Sea Is A Stereo, Grunt Gallery, Vancouver, Canada, 2012; Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2011. Her selected group exhibitions include Everything in Nature has a Lyrical Essence, a tragic fate, a comic existence - Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna, 2016; Land Without Land (2016) and Once There Was a Country (2015), Heidelberger Kunstverein; All The World’s Futures, Venice Biennial, Venice, 2015; The Abraaj Group Art Prize, Art Dubai, Dubai, UAE, 2015; The Ungovernables, New Museum, New York, USA, 2012; 5th Marrakech Biennial, Marrakech, Morocco, 2014; Neighbors, Istanbul Modern, Istanbul, Turkey, 2013; Homeworks 6, Ashkal Alwan, Beirut, Lebanon, 2013.
Öykü Özsoy is a curator based in Istanbul. She was an international fellow curator at Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Germany between 2013-2015, where she curated two process based art projects supported by Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation). She worked as the director of FULL Art Prize (2011-2012) and the program coordinator and assistant curator at Platform Garanti Contemporary Center (2002-2010) and co-director at Istanbul Residency Program (2005-2010). She was the co-founder of an independent art space, Alti Aylik (2006-2010) in Istanbul, which was a platform of experiencing new ways of exhibition making. Özsoy has curated exhibitions at Westfalischer Kunstverein, Münster, Germany; INSA Art Space, Seoul, Korea; DEPO and Haskoy Yarn Factory, Istanbul. Her recent curatorial projects are Land Without Land (2016) and Once There Was a Country (2015) at Heidelberger Kunstverein, Heidelberg, Germany. Özsoy has contributed to international exhibition catalogues and art magazines, her recent publications Hack and the City (2014) and Are you talking to me? (2015) were published by Revolver Publishing, Berlin. Her curatorial interest is in research based artistic practices, mainly focusing on strategies of participation, collaboration and knowledge production.