The HANGAR, an UMAM Documentation & Research project, is an independent platform that facilitates debate and exchange through artistic and cultural practices. It seeks to stimulate reflection on past individual and collective memories and art practices related to the use of archives.
Located in the popular southern suburbs of Beirut, The HANGAR transitioned from a busy warehouse built in the 1950s to an interdisciplinary public space in 2004.
As part of the ongoing debate on the use of documents in contemporary art, The HANGAR’s new residency program for local, regional and international artists, scholars and curators interested in experimenting with archival assets seeks to answer questions such as:
• How can research impact the creation process and vice versa?
• What role does artistic contribution play in collective reflection on the past?
• How can visual art invent new frames for archival displays?
The residency program is intended to commission artistic projects for UMAM’s collection. These will range from books and periodicals to written, audiovisual and artifact elements related primarily to Lebanon’s recent history.
A space in the making, The HANGAR continues to host regular events, such as exhibitions, screenings, workshops, performances and roundtables, and it emphasizes cooperation with social and educational bodies. This user-friendly meeting point will grow to include a library, bookshop and concept cafeteria.
The Hangar was built in the mid-1950s on property number 155 in Haret Hreik. Originally, the Abela Family used it to house part of its business, which included the purchase of vegetables and fruits and their preparation for distribution. The highest quality produce was exported to neighboring countries, and what remained was sold locally. The building continued to be used for this purpose until the end of the 1960s when the family decided to move its business closer to Beirut International Airport—which itself had been moved from Bir Hassan to its present location.
The Hangar was used for two years during the early 1970s by a company that purchased eggs wholesale and re-sold them to local merchants and small shops, and it remained so occupied until the first stages of the civil war. At that time, a small printing press was set up in The Hangar, an endeavor that officially ended the first chapter of The Hangar’s history.
The building remained deserted until early 2004 when UMAM began its renovation. On April 15, 2005, its reopening was celebrated with the screening of a film entitled Le Liban dans Le Tourmente. Since that time, The Hangar has hosted regular activities, including film screenings, round table discussions, and exhibitions. Since its construction, the space had been known in the quarter as “the hangar,” and UMAM chose to retain that name when it became the building’s newest tenant.
On July 12, 2006, the outbreak of war prompted cancellation of the projects and events scheduled to take place in The Hangar. During its coverage of the ongoing violence, Lebanese media reported at about 4:30 pm on Sunday, August 6th of that year that Israeli aircraft had bombed Haret Hreik for the umpteenth time. Back then, there was nothing particularly remarkable about such news since bombing raids of Beirut’s southern suburbs, particularly Haret Hreik. Indeed, since the war’s beginning, aerial bombing of that area seemed an almost daily exercise for the Israeli pilots. That August 6th, however, a building located just 100 meters behind The Hangar and UMAM’s offices was attacked. Thankfully, while The Hangar suffered only material damage, it nevertheless required months of repair and prompted the mourning of numerous documents that had been destroyed.
Some ten months later, thanks to decisive institutional support provided by Medico International and the Prince Claus Emergency Fund, UMAM was extremely pleased to reopen The Hangar with an exhibition called Collecting Dahiyeh.
Changes never cease, however, and in 2010—thanks to a generous grant by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs—an unused wing of the building was refurbished. This enabled its use as a reading room, especially for those interested in accessing UMAM’s library and archives.
Renovation plan for The HANGAR. Avatar Architettura©
Veterans all and some…
To the Death
A civil war veteran and former Member of Parliament explained: “most Lebanese participated in the war. Participation… was never an issue.” During its What is to Be Done? Lebanon’s War-Loaded Memory initiative, UMAM D&R saw that the issue of former combatants needed attention despite persistent sensitivities and challenges, and commissioned Statistics Lebanon Ltd. to query veterans from each “camp.” Reviewed initially during a 2008 focus group, the final product explains something about who fought, why, and how they view their actions.
Notable veteran Assaad Chaftari saw the predictive value of the effort, especially since many veterans were integrated into the army and other governmental bodies after the war. But while we believe the results give Lebanon’s history more comprehensiveness and transparency, we also believe they should be judged only on how well they achieve that purpose.[Read more...]