I've Heard Stories, 2009
Video and 2D animation, 4:42.
The work brings together different stories on the chalet Raja Saab, a 1950’s experimental architecture. It is part of an ongoing research on the “Acapulco”, a once very hip beach resort situated in the southern outskirts of the city, that has undergone a radical transformation after 1978. It is also an attempt to think about history through a building and the different layers that can be seen through the architectural object itself.
Your treatment of the body in the video is remarkably subtle -- can you speak to the decision to include line drawing animation of the speaking subjects?
I wanted to create a separation between the bodies and the architectural spaces I was filming. Those bodies that inhabit the spaces/houses, or once inhabited them are either dead, or alien to / or alienated from those spaces, for different historical reasons. So I really wanted to create two worlds that could cohabit with each other at moments, and at some other moments live in parallel with each other, sometimes in a state of conflict. I also wanted to emphasize the architectural structure, (that is a modernist one) and its transformation as a body in movement not very different from the animation. The reason for all these movements (the building, the animated bodies) is a history of conflicts and migrations.
From your perspective, what fantasy informed the Acapulco building project at the time of its construction? Does its mutation symbolize something for you about the transformation of that fantasy post-war?
I guess its different fantasies, influences and construction conditions and laws. When it was commissioned by Raja Saab to architect Ferdinand Dagher, Brazilia was in the process of being built, and we know for a fact that Dagher was one of the people who pushed to invite Oscar Niemeyer to build and international fair in Tripoli (second city in Lebanon), so perhaps this influence was translated in the design, the circularity of the forms reference a certain tropical modernism. Later on Pepe Abed who was a Lebanese Mexican, transformed it into the Acapulco beach resort, and I suppose that this was a total transfer, projection and fantasy of what a Mexican beach resort could look like.
The works shown were made eight years apart, during a time of intense development in Beirut. How do you see your practice change over this period as a result?
It has changed a lot, but many of the fundamental questions that I was posing in earlier projects are still current. I am less interested in historicizing that change, and more in looking at current economic and political dynamics that shape building and the form of the city. Then and now.
Marwa Arsanios obtained her MFA from Wimbledon College of Art, University of the Arts, London, UK (2007) and was a researcher in the fine art department at the Jan Van Eyck Academie, Maastricht, the Netherlands (2011-2012). Her work was shown in international events, among which The Thessaloniki Biennial (2015) the Venice Biennial, Future Generation Art Prize, Venice, Italy (2013); Home Works 5,6 and 7, Beirut, Lebanon (2015, 2013 and 2010); the Jerusalem Show, Jerusalem (2012); The Istanbul Biennial (2011), the Berlinale’s Forum Expanded, Berlin, Germany (2015 and 2010). Her videos have been screened at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France, ICA in London, Rotterdam Film Festival, and exhibited in several institutions and Museums such as the New Museum in New York, MuKHA in Antwerp, Beirut Art Center and Tensta Konsthalle in Stockholm, Art in General in New York (solo show) and Kunsthalle Lissabon (solo show). Marwa Arsanios is a founding member of the artistic organization and project space 98weeks Research Project that focuses its research on a new topic every 98weeks.