What does it mean to tend to Lebanon’s recent woes from the vantage point of everyday life?
Intimate Garden Scene (in Beirut) focuses on the encounter of artists and modes of artistic production that emerged in the 1990s, amid the country’s shifting political and cultural landscape. These artists, in their shared yet distinct trajectories, elevate lived experiences and writings of history to an ongoing, transformative project—that of witnessing a time and place marred by the permanence of crisis.
For three decades, Lebanon has continued to grapple with violent postwar arrangements to its sectarian order. Suffice it to mention: a reconstruction process that further disfigured the capital’s urban center; the end of Syria’s decade-lasting military presence and of Israel’s occupation of the South; the October 2019 uprisings; the Beirut Port explosion; and the painstaking collapse of Lebanon’s national currency, state institutions, and domestic economy. These conjunctural events have ushered in their wake a persistent sense of precarity, wherein the possibility of conjuring a knowable future and of overcoming an injurious past, are rendered fraught.
This exhibition features drawings and sketches, paintings and collages, written diaries and archival documents, photography and video-based works, and sculptures, all of which harbor textures of the mundane and the historical as they each came to weigh on our collective consciousness.
While some of the artists lean on conventional representational techniques, and others challenge them, all inevitably produce formal languages and conceptual modes of their own. Among them is the attendance of seriality, which foregrounds repetition and reconfiguration in order to echo the cyclical disposition of crises. The recurring deployment of the diaristic also deserves notice, as an intimate, subjective, and fragmentary mode of address that comes to inform the ephemeral and incomplete quality of the artwork (and the artistic process itself). Lastly, a reliance on fiction and appropriation as a means to complicate the figure of the witness and their claim to truth. Throughout Intimate Garden Scene (in Beirut), historical events are internalized, processed, and mulled over repeatedly, with exhibited artworks authoring an interrupted novel.
Intimate Garden Scene (in Beirut) is organized by Ashkal Alwan in the context of the ninth edition of Home Works Forum; the institution’s flagship multidisciplinary forum taking place in three chapters: November 30th, 2023, April 25th, 2024, and November 28th, 2024. The title references Ashkal Alwan’s first showcase, held at the Sanayeh Garden (Beirut) in 1995.