Installation by Jean-Marc Nahas

@ Zico House – Sanayeh

December 6 – 16, 2006

Originally scheduled to take place in The Hangar, Catastrophe was moved to a different location because of the damage suffered by that facility when a building situated directly behind the UMAM D&R compound was bombed during the 2006 war. Thanks to a cooperative effort, the event was relocated to the Zico House.

Jean-Marc Nahas, the artist for this installation, participated in and survived the war in Lebanon. Interestingly, he has been drawing and painting for approximately 20 years, and the subjects he chooses reflect Lebanon’s turbulent history. Although he does not believe that his work communicates a specific message, his enduring focus is on the country’s march toward a tragic resumption of violence. He considers his art to be part of the vital, national commitment to speak out against and cease such violence.

The installation is a compilation of Nahas’s work that addresses his frustration with Lebanon’s status quo. During an interview with UMAM’s Monika Borgmann, Nahas states that he grew up in an environment that bathed him in catastrophes. Thus, Catastrophe portrays the war’s violence based on the artist’s impression of its harsh reality. It may be purely coincidental, but since Nahas’s work seems to address Lebanon’s cycle of violence, the ravages of the 2006 war reiterate and emphasize the overall theme of his efforts.

In the interview, Nahas says “The real catastrophe is that life resumes the day after the war ends, like nothing had happened, as if one could massacre people and then just move on to other things. Although I don’t intend it, sometimes it seems that my work archives things that have happened in this country.” Although Nahas desires only to address his personal frustrations and express his own experiences, his work helps produce an atmosphere in which people can relate their own memories. Through the lens he creates, the audience can see the flesh and blood of inhumanity expressed in times of war and violence, an inhumanity that respects no political boundaries.

So whether it is due to the coincidental timing, his startling wisdom or the audacity that allows this artist to address Lebanon’s violence on a societal level, Nahas deftly sends a message that we have repeatedly failed to broadcast.

Jean-Marc Nahas

Jean-Marc Nahas was born in Beirut in 1963. He studied in Paris at Les Beaux-Arts and lived in Montreal before returning to Lebanon in 1996. He’s been drawing and painting for over 20 years and the majority of his work shows traces of Lebanon’s turbulent history. His works have been exhibited in Lebanon and abroad.

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Territory, space and body: Historical issues in Contemporary Lebanese Art by Gregory Buchakjian – Essay published in Convergence, New Art from Lebanon