Mounira Al Solh’s all-time swimmers

February 26, 2009

Yesterday I went to the exhibition ‘Lately, Not Far’ with artsworkz by two young artists, Mounira Al Solh (The Sea Is a Stereo) and Darinka Pop Mitic (On Solidarity) in the Gallery Nova. The exhibition is first in the series of events connected with Istanbul Biennale 2009 as a sort of pre-setup.

solh1.jpgLet’s Not Swim Then by Mounira Al Solh (c)

The programme of the gallery is curated by members of the collective WHW; in 2008 appointed as curators for this year’s edition of Istanbul’s Biennale. Therefore, the exhibition presents two authors in the context of Biennials’ theme, and that’s a line from Bertol Brecht’s song ‘What Keeps Mankind Alive?’.

I was very interested in work by Lebanese artist Mounira Al Solh because that’s a scene I haven’t been introduced to so far. She was born in Beirut in 1978 and studied painting at the Lebanese University in Beirut (LB), and Fine Arts at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam (NL). Mounira Al Solh works mainly with video, painting and photography.

solh3.jpgElvis by Mounira Al Solh (c)

Al Solh’s artworks presented in Zagreb, small photographic cycle ‘Elvis’; video installations ‘Let’s Not Swim Then!’ and ‘Paris Without a Sea’ are her analyses and work-in-progress on men who swim everyday on the beach in Beirut, regardless on changeable weather circumstances or war situation.

solh2.jpgLet’s Not Swim Then by Mounira Al Solh (c)

Artist’s statement about the Sea Is a Stereo is that ‘Even as we read this, the men might be swimming or preparing themselves to do so. The project is ongoing and consists of different elements: a number of videos, photographs, a lecture and other materials. I see these elements as different possibilities for making The Sea Is A Stereo, which seems to me a never-ending work; like the men who will never stop swimming.’

solh4.jpgParis Without A Sea by Mounira Al Solh (c)

‘Paris Without A Sea focuses on interviews that I did with the men. Usually, making an interview presupposes that there should be an interviewer and an interviewee, and that the two stand on different sides; that they are two different entities or units. This video tries to defy this presupposition, without really changing it. The questions begin by asking very basic things that are so banal that they are usually taken for granted. Sometimes the exaggerated fast rhythm of the video, and these surprising questions and answers from the men (that are even more surprising) make the video slide into the absurd, where appropriation and performance constitute underlying strong components of the work.’

solh5.jpgParis Without A Sea by Mounira Al Solh (c)

‘Let’s Not Swim Then! is a video based on different scenes of the swimmers filmed individually or in groups as they are on the beach or going there. These scenes were filmed between 2006 and 2008 at different locations on the public beach in Beirut, and during different times of the year. Each of the scenes is followed by remarks that some of the men made after watching a playback. The remarks are the thread that binds the scenes together, clarifying the relationship of the men with the cost line in Beirut and the shrinking public beaches where they swim.’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *