• During a press conference organized at the National Museum of Beirut, in the presence of Minister of Tourism Walid Nassar, of writer, journalist, and member of the National Commission for UNESCO Roni Alpha representing the Minister of Culture, Judge Mohammad Wissam Al-Mortada, of artist Mounira Al Solh, of architect Karim Bekdache, of key figures in the Arts and Culture scene, as well as the media, the commissioner and curator of the Pavilion of Lebanon Nada Ghandour announced the theme of the Pavilion at the 60th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia, and presented the project’s details.


    Placed under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and organized by the Lebanese Visual Art Association (LVAA), the Pavilion of Lebanon at the Biennale Arte 2024, which will be held from April 20 to November 24, 2024, will present a multimedia installation by the artist Mounira Al Solh, entitled A Dance with her Myth.


    Roni Alpha representing the Minister of Culture Judge Mohammad Wissam Al-Mortada stated: "It is uncommon to witness such a rich array of artistic mediums converging in service of an idea, yet that is precisely what Al Solh achieved through her participation in the  Biennale Arte 2024. What began as an exhibition tracing the history of Tyre and the Phoenicians evolved into a journey of struggle for women's liberation, challenging the patriarchal society and its injustices. Aboard a Phoenician vessel, it’s all about emancipating women, the city, and the homeland, all within a scenographic framework that transports visitors to Tyre's azure shores, evoking a sense of imminent discovery of the murex".


    During her speech, Nada Ghandour said: "Today, the region is experiencing a tragedy, but this Pavilion will serve as a testament to the enduring, optimistic, and vibrant spirit of Lebanese art. It will solidify its place on the global artistic stage and reaffirm Lebanon's significance as a hub for artistic innovation".

    The Lebanese Pavilion invites Mounira Al Solh (Beirut, 1978) to create a bridge between myth and reality within its walls at the 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Her extensive multimedia installation A Dance with her Myth, composed of 41 pieces—drawings, paintings, sculptures, embroideries, and video—are spread across the 180 square meters occupied by the Pavilion at the Arsenale. By revisiting the myth of the rapt of Europa, the artist offers a perspective on the aspirations and challenges faced by women today. On canvas, paper and screen, her creative process combines allegorical narrative with a documentary approach, appropriation with diversion, and gives realistic, poetic, and very contemporary representations.


    At the origin of Lebanon

    All peoples inherit foundational or exemplary stories, including the Lebanese, whose myths date back to their ancestors—the Phoenicians.  The history of Phoenicia is little known. The people who invented the alphabet left few written records. Nevertheless, cities such as Byblos, Beirut, Saida and Tyre attest, through their vestiges, to a glorious past. Phoenicia is part of the history of the great powers that would subsequently dominate it: Alexander the Great’s Greece, and the Roman Empire. Famous Phoenician myths such as the union of Adonis, citizen of Byblos, with the goddess Aphrodite; the myth of Hercules and his dog finding the murex on a beach in Tyre; and the abduction of Europa in these very same locations have entered more or less literally into Greco-Roman mythology. Mounira Al Solh also pays tribute to this rich multimillennial and still thriving cultural heritage.


    The myth and its modernization

    Mounira Al Solh has chosen to use the myth to express herself on the fate of women and their capacity for resilience, following the example of the Phoenician princess Europa, whom the artist rescues from her plight.


    Over the centuries, the interpretation of myths has often been used both in dissent and in subversion: all of these dimensions are present in the installation. The myth has, in and of itself, the fundamental quality of being a public and universal discourse—which makes it forever contemporary, and ready to be reclaimed and revisited.


    In the ancient narrative, on a beach in Tyre, Zeus takes the form of a white bull to seduce Europa, the beautiful Phoenician princess and, through a ruse, carry her on his back to the shores of Crete, where he marries her. In her installation, the artist matches the present with the myth in an unexpected way; she suggests an alternative and even inverted reading of it, which allows critical distance and humor. The search for Europa, which the artist invites us to participate in, contributes to the fulfillment of a female destiny free from “gods”—that is, assuming, without being subjected to it, the role and responsibility of men, and wishing for gender balance.


    Written and devised by men, the ancient narrative expresses the desire for domination and submission of women. Europa’s journey to Crete at first glance evokes that of a spoil of war taken from the Phoenicians by the Cretans. Over the centuries, particularly in Western painting, the representations evolved from abduction to consent. Yet it is still the point of view of men that is expressed. Mounira Al Solh, instead, chooses to promote a relationship based on gender equality, reinterpreting the myth with the eyes and beliefs of a woman of today, determined and free. She upsets the balance of power between the dominating god and the dominated princess. Princess Europa cooperates with Zeus and manipulates him; it is she who holds him and carries him away by walking on water, she who tosses him around with her feet, as if he were a kicking ball. In her quest, the artist pushes the deconstruction of gender stereotypes to the extreme, by reversing the roles and the sexes, and, in particular, by transforming Hercules’ dog into a female canine.


    The Installation

    A Dance with her Myth is set up around a boat, inviting visitors on a symbolic journey of emancipation and gender equality. Its unfinished structure indicates that the journey is not fully completed.  The itinerary of the installation is rooted in a power play. In the center, the skiff is located half-way between the paintings and the graphic works that advocate the questioning of gender norms and the struggle for equality, and the masks embody the conservative forces of society. The objects present in the space also play a role in the 12-minute film projected on the boat’s sail-screen.


    Mounira Al Solh’s drawings constitute the narrative of the central pattern developed in the paintings which defy traditional iconography. Transposition, deviation, and distortion are the tools used in the artist’s strategy. Various archetypical figures of Phoenician culture or of mythology populate, in an explosive and at times comical way, an intermediary world between allegory and reality. The temporality of A Dance with her Myth is not that of the myth, but that of the artist in dialogue with the viewer, here and now.


    The scenography, designed by the architect Karim Bekdache, with no reorganization or partitioning of the space, allows a total immersion in the display. It contributes to a progression towards an endless horizon painted in blue-grey—the color of the sea and the skies of Tyre—as well as the long, winding pontoon that crosses the Pavilion from side to side, and creates the link between land and sea. The encounter between the works and the visitor occurs throughout the visit.