As part of the 59th International Art Exhbition – La Biennale di Venezia, the Lebanese Pavilion, located in the main hall of the Arsenal, sheds light on Lebanese contemporary creation and promotes the country through its art and culture.


During the inauguration of the Lebanese Pavilion in Venice, Pavilion’s curator Nada Ghandour was surrounded by the two artists: filmmaker and video maker Danielle Arbid and visual artist Ayman Baalbaki, the Pavilion’s scenographer architect and founder of Culture in Architecture Aline Asmar d’Amman, many Lebanese and friends of Lebanon and representatives of partner institutions. The ambassador of Lebanon to Italy H.E. Mrs. Mira Daher came from Rome to attend the inauguration and support the Pavilion.


Placed under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and organized by the Lebanese Visual Art Association (LVAA), the Lebanese Pavilion at the Biennale Arte 2022, invites you on a symbolic journey into our contemporary world through the theme The World in the Image of Man, a city, Beirut and two artists: Danielle Arbid and Ayman Baalbaki, who maintain a political and aesthetic dialogue through two creations that are so far and yet so close. The works are distinct from one another, each with its own economy, subject, history and codes. Nonetheless, face to face within the pavilion and linked by a theme that has no borders, their works respond to one another, putting into space the perpetual action of the human imagination on the reality of the world.


During her speech, Nada Ghandour said: “I am deeply honored to be the curator of the Lebanese Pavilion this year. Under the patronage of the Ministry of Culture, which I thank for its trust, I am committed to showcase the excellence of the Lebanese artistic scene. The presence of the Lebanese Pavilion at the Arsenal is a moment of immense pride and no mean feat given the particular challenges our country faces at the present time. With this participation, we would like to send a strong message to artists in Lebanon to encourage and motivate them, show them that there is support for them, and also promote Lebanon’s contemporary art scene, an important sector for the country.”


The streets of Beirut inspired both Ayman Baalbaki’s monumental and ambitious installation, Janus Gate, and Danielle Arbid’s turbulent video, Allô Chérie. The two artists dialogue with the polysemic urban nature of this city that embodies as much Lebanon as the rest of the world. It is represented as the center of the upheavals and emotional instability of our technological interaction with the world.


Ayman Baalbaki has created a two-sided installation that depicts a fragmented Beirut. Like the Latin god Janus, it constantly oscillates between past and future, between threats and promises, between facades and backdrops, between peace and war. On one side of the structure, the installation takes the form of a building

façade under construction. This is illustrated by the colorful, torn-up tarpaulins and posters. On the other side of the installation, there is a dilapidated guard's cabin. Between these two, a door remains ajar to allow one to pass through and shift from one side to the other.


Echoing this notion of a fragmented Beirut, Danielle Arbid’s film Allô Chérie portrays, in its own way, a distorted sense of space and time. Her images, shot with a mobile phone, accentuate this and reveal the increased competition between the physical and virtual worlds. Danielle Arbid takes us on a car ride around Beirut with her own mother, who is in a frantic search for money. Given the current crisis in Lebanon, it is as intimate as it is political. We can see the panorama of Beirut through the windshield, further reinforcing the

ambiguity between public and private realms.


Both artists use these different spatiotemporal spaces and dividing lines to immerse us in a tense and frantic narrative. This is further emphasized by their use of a two-sided structure, or, in Danielle Arbid’s film, a split-screen. Indeed, the use of the split screen technique, which is employed for the first time in Arbid's work, emphasizes the overlapping of sound and image captured separately in Allô Chérie. Almost like a video game, we flip from left to right, immersing ourselves in her work as if we were entering the Janus Gate.

For his part, Ayman Baalbaki multiplies the types of plastic interventions: torn-up, burned, smashed, broken, and covered in spray paint, the tarpaulins create trompe-l’oeil spaces. They distort all references to space and time.


Through a dialogue between two artists, Ayman Baalbaki, who lives and works in Lebanon, and Danielle Arbid, who left her native country at the age of 17 but has been inspired by it ever since, this exhibition also proposes a space for symbolic exchange on the history and current society to all Lebanese, whether they live in Lebanon or elsewhere.


In light of the current situation in Lebanon, the political aspect of these two works are all the more justified. They both depict the contradictions and challenges plaguing the country. The frantic race for money is inseparable from the violence raging in Lebanon today. The real-estate speculation, which promises dreams, hides ruin and misleads as far as merchandise is concerned. The anguish surrounding Lebanon’s economic and political collapse is becoming increasingly visible. In their own ways, both artists expose the true nature of Lebanon, in all its beauty and chaos.


The Scenography:

The Pavilion’s scenography answers to the curatorial notion of dialogue, a central idea within this project.


Echoing the works by Danielle Arbid and Ayman Baalbaki, architect Aline Asmar d’Amman suggests a wander through the heart of Lebanon which: “takes the form of a brutalist elliptical shell evoking the eternal wish for unity. The surrounding geometric form invites the works to engage in a dialogue of truths, facing each other, shortening the distances, as if engaged in an innate and natural conversation.”


The Pavilion’s raw architecture recalls the shapes of the contemporary ruins of the Lebanese urban landscape: Joseph Philippe Karam's downtown cinema 'The Egg' and Oscar Niemeyer's 'Rashid Karamé' international exhibition building in Tripoli.

This scenographic setting of approximately 150 m2, derived from the brutalist architecture that flourished in Lebanon as of the 1960s, echoes a walk through Beirut, through the eyes of Ayman Baalbaki and Danielle Arbid. The facade is covered with curved panels coated in a concrete texture, evoking the city, under permanent construction. The oculus of the Pavilion opens onto the magnificent framework of the Venetian roof, as an invitation to draw the gaze upwards.


Upon entering the Lebanese Pavilion, the visitor is first confronted with the work of Ayman Baalbaki, and then they are drawn to Danielle Arbid’s video projected directly on to the wall.

For Aline Asmar d’Amman, the choice of such radical actions and scenographic materials expresses a desire for sobriety in response to the country's current situation.