As if I was an astronaut preparing for an intergalactic voyage. The countdown begins. (Artist’s Residency at Ashkal Alwan, Beirut, 15 April – 15 May, 2014)
I was very excited to announce this week my upcoming artist residency at Ashkal Alwan in Beirut. Ashkal Alwan doesn’t need much introduction, but if you haven’t heard of it, I recommend browsing through their online archives of interdisciplinary talks, exhibitions, residencies, events with visiting international art practitioners including people such as Hans Ulrich Obrist, Tony Chakar, Sophie Calle, Rabih Mroué, Willie Doherty, Emily Jacir, Akram Zaatari, Adam Curtis. Look into the Home Works programs as well, curated over the years by Christine Tohme, Ashkal Alwan Director, Tania Bruguera, Joana Hadjithomas, Khalil Joreige, Walid Raad, Khalil Rabah, Lina Saneh, and Gregory Sholette among others.
Whilst at Ashkal Alwan, I will test ideas for new exhibition works, work on the first draft of the book (with Book Works) and start constructing the archive of Diab’s collection (with the Arab Image Foundation). I’ll be taking with me some of the archival material from Diab’s collection selected for a deposition with the AIF. After years of gradually being brought to London, his collection will be going back home, to be preserved and made available to the public at the AIF.
I’m also taking folders full of preliminary sketches for the book layouts – beautifully designed by our Graphic Designer, Kelly Weedon. I’m imagining a lively exchange of images, text and designs flying between Kelly, Book Works and myself and frequent visits to our printers, Chamas Printing in Beirut, so at the end of the month we shall have strong sense of how the book might look and feel.
A month seems like a very long time to be leaving London for. But I feel hungry for Beirut; for what might happen there. After my first visit last October I felt overwhelmed by the possibilities this city offers and the way it seemed to re-fragment my mind. We know what we know about current political situation in the Middle East, enough to generate (some/considerable) tension, a bit more than usual, but we are used to it, my Beirut friends tell me. I know I’m not travelling to a trouble-free city but I’m hungry to take it in properly, for brilliant people I will see again and that I am yet to meet there, for the focus I will be able to devote to resolving this project.
I think about everything that there is to be learnt, decided and let go of whilst I’m there. It would be easy to get carried away by a sense of excitement. I say this, thinking of moths and candle flames. Perhaps Beirut has taught me something valuable already about relating to the past and managing visions of the future, about being and dealing only with ‘the Now’. This time, in preparation for the residency, I am ticking off practical boxes as well as training my mind as if I was an astronaut prepping for a long-haul intergalactic voyage. Being an Artist in Residence can feel like stepping into a different time & space capsule, simultaneously a part of life’s continuum but also a self-contained, parallel universe governed by different laws, energies and rules of being – literally and metaphorically.
The project feels like a cocooned creature ready to break out of me and spread its own wings. I feel like I’m going to Beirut to deliver myself as well as delivering IT. A month suddenly seems like a very short time.
I’ll be keeping a residency journal, extracts of which are bound to find their way here from time to time. If you’d like to receive updates about these musings, come back to this Artist’s Blog, or follow me on twitter: @dabrowska_ania for details of my Beirut adventures.