Jocelyne Saab and Achilleas Souras take center stage at MACAM
Two exhibitions launched at MACAM (Modern and Contemporary Art Museum) in Alita, Byblos, showcase the work of two contrasting, talented individuals at different, yet equally exciting points in their careers.
The first is a retrospective show celebrating the work of the renowned Lebanese photojournalist and filmmaker, Jocelyne Saab, while the second is an installation by the teenage artist and rising star, Achilleas Souras.
Long an icon of the film industry, Saab needs little in the way of introduction, having dedicated herself to highlighting injustices around the world through her innovative work, and often putting her life on the line to do so. While her early focus was on the Lebanese civil war, in the decades since, she has extended her reach to film unrest, turmoil and conflict across the region and beyond, capturing and relaying moments that have proved to be history in the making.
This first-time retrospective, curated by Mathilde Rouxel, which takes place under the banner ‘Age of Video Art’ shines a spotlight on Saab’s career, giving audiences an opportunity to discover or rediscover some of her best-known work, including photographs and videos that have formed part of exhibitions held around the globe.
Among the gems on display, visitors will find ‘The Reversal of Occidentalism’ series, which questions the uneasy and ambivalent relationship that the East has with the West when it comes to issues such as politics and social morality, through the use of Barbie dolls. In a separate collection, titled ‘Soft Architecture’, Saab cleverly captures the desert light on Bedouin tents, while treating us to a fascinating glimpse of nomadic life. The photographs are accompanied by video screenings exploring some of today’s most topical themes, with input from a range of contemporary artists and cultural activists: ‘Café du Genre’, which focuses on gender bias; ‘Imaginary Postcard’, which looks at the concept of exile; and ‘A Dollar a Day’, which considers the portrayal in the local media of refugee children.
The theme of the displaced and what more we can do to help them is also central to the installation by Achilleas Souras, which opened on June 16 to mark World Refugee Day and is supported by UNHCR.
Titled ‘Save Our Souls’, the project represents the young artist’s response to the current global refugee crisis. In his project, Souras, who was born in London and currently lives and studies in Athens, proposes reusing the common life jacket, which has become a visual symbol of the refugee crisis in the media, as a means of providing practical, low-cost, temporary shelters, in the form of igloos, for the displaced.
“When you hold the jacket in your hand and you smell the sea, you look at things through a different prism and you realize that every jacket represents a human life,” he is on record as saying. “The refugees, the homeless and the less privileged cannot be ‘out of sight, out of mind’ anymore. These are global issues that affect us all, and we must try to solve them for everyone’s sake.”
Souras’s architectural installation, which he created when aged just 15, comprises 35 fully functional life vests, velcro and six structural poles, and has been showcased in museums and art fairs worldwide.
Inaugurated in 2013 as a non-profit organization dedicated to reviving the memory of art in Lebanon, documenting and preserving it for the present and future generations, MACAM (Modern and Contemporary Art Museum) holds a rich archive of more than 1500 books on Lebanese art and 500 files about Lebanese artists. It also provides educational tours, creative workshops and lectures for school children.
MACAM hosts each year retrospective exhibitions of Lebanese masters, as well as competitions and temporary exhibitions. Its permanent collection of 350 modern sculptures and installations by 115 artists welcomed more than 16,000 visitors since its inauguration.