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Media anthropology e-seminar: Reimaging Lebanese resistance

December 23, 2009

Important update 15 Feb 2010: This session has now been rescheduled to start on 23 Feb and end on 9 March 2010.

The next EASA Media Anthropology Network e-seminar will run on the Network’s mailing list from 16 23 February to 2 9 March 2010. Mark Westmoreland (American University in Cairo) will present the working paper “Akram’s Reproduction Machine: Reimagining Lebanese Resistance.” The discussant will be Kirsten Scheid (American University of Beirut). To take part in this free seminar please drop me a line and I will add you to our mailing list. These seminars are open to anyone with a genuine interest in the anthropology of media. See PDF transcripts of past sessions here.

Abstract

Akram Zaatari recently had his first solo show in Beirut. As one of the most successful artists in Lebanon, Zaatari has shown his work at exhibitions and biennials around the world. Due to the focus on war and memory, Lebanese art in general has become a fetish in the international art world. Considered part of the first generation of postwar artists (followed by two since), Zaatari has a prolific body of work dating from the mid-90s, and earlier if you consider the way he incorporates photos and diaries from his childhood into his exhibits. The rarity of solo shows in Lebanon means it is unusual to experience one artist’s entire body of work at a single event. While I am interested in what this tells us about the shortages of public venues for artists in Lebanon, the limited access to previous works, and the global flow of these discourses, in this paper I want to consider instead how Zaatari’s collection resonates with a broader effort by artists in Lebanon to trace the violence of the past into the present (and perhaps the future) by engaging the strengths and weaknesses of modern media. In Zaatari’s solo show, Earth of Endless Secrets, most of the pieces focus on the way that political violence in southern Lebanon has been experienced by the people, places, and objects that have “survived” it. Indeed, much of his work examines media objects as fossils of forgotten histories. By using photography and video as “reproduction machines” to document and catalog his research materials, he does not so much reveal behind the scene “secrets” of video production as show the “endless” amount of secrets as yet unearthed. According to Zaatari, this identifies the boundary of permissible representation.

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