Abandoned Dwellings in Beirut


[version française]

Abandoned Dwellings in Beirut is a multi-layered transdisciplinary project.

In a rapidly changing Beirut, neglected dwellings are places in abeyance, condemned to disappear as a result of land speculation. This project aims at examining the transformations that these obsolete architectures undergo. The study, carried on site (nearly 750 buildings have been identified), based on archives, testimonies and oral history, also re-examines artistic endeavours and the way artists have viewed the city, which is particularly important considering that its trigger has been a photographic project undertaken by the author.

The photographic series started in 2009. Inside derelict residences, female figures, reminiscent of the Ninfas (following this term and its interpretation by Aby Warburg and Georges Didi-Huberman) in the paintings of Botticelli and Mantegna, evolve across dust, ashes and dismantled furniture, injecting with beauty and desire, dialectic between life, death and survival.

The photographic mission also disclosed a survey of the buildings and the collection of archives on site. This documentation generated a PhD dissertation in Art History at Université Paris IV Sorbonne under the supervision of Jean-Yves Andrieux, from 2012 to 2016. In this dissertation, three of chapters are devoted to belligerent activities. The first, on the “Battle of the hotels”, addresses contested space; the second explores the demarcation line and the third examines the military barracks, prisons, and torture centres. The fourth chapter covers informal dwellings, squatted buildings and other reappropriations. It observes the background of entangled features stemming from migration flows that were triggered by the violence of war, or rather wars.

related text:
- Abandoned Dwellings in Beirut.  Wars and Transformation of the Urban Space. 1860-2015 (in French), 2016

selected reviews and interviews:
- Thierry Savatier, Le Monde.fr, 21'07'2014
- Eric Gonon, Blouin Artinfo, 08'07'2014
- Gerhard Mack,Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 15'01'2013
- Christopher Lydon, Radio Open Source 16'01'2013

related projects:
- Wadi Abou Jmil (with Said Baalbaki), 2015
- Abandoned Houses in Beirut (with Zeina Bassil), 2015
- Kolmanskop (with Valerie Cachard), 2013
- Leningrad (with François Sargologo and Hanibal Srouji), 2013

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