Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut
In this solo exhibition, Al Solh engages with the concept of language as a mechanism of transmission and traversal. She presents a completely new set of work for the occasion, informed by her readings on language and the voice by authors such as Ahmad Beydoun (Kalamon), Mladen Dolar (A voice and nothing more), and Louis Wolfson (le Schizo et les langues), as well as her experiences with the noa language school, a project initiated with Italian curator Angela Serino in 2013.
Al Solh uses language to examine a route and place of transition, between the mother tongue and languages of immigration. Along these lines, she links the concept of dialects navigating across boundaries with the recent upsurge of the refugee community in the context of Syria today, and the regular practice of emigration from Lebanon. By bringing the personal experiences of herself and her family together with the forces of geopolitics reflected in the plight of displaced Syrians in Lebanon today, Al Solh situates herself within a context where history and biography overlap.
Clogged (2014) is a new installation of Damascene clogs relates to the current influx of refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria to Lebanon. Visitors are invited to shed their shoes and put on a pair of the traditional clogs for the duration of their encounter with the exhibition; in this way they become participants and performers as they walk through the gallery, reigniting the nostalgic clomping sounds of the shoes that are falling out of use in favor of the standard flip-flop. A similar performative installation took place at Art Dubai 2014.
In her two new Videos Vrijouiligers (2012-14) and Now Eat My Script (2014) the artist questions habits and languages of refugees and immigrants in their new countries. Vrijouiligers was shot in Antwerp where the artist came with about 20,000 immigrants to test her level of Dutch and to register for language courses in order to begin the immigration process. The viewer witnesses people speaking in different languages, without subtitles, interrupted by the artist’s personal notes and questionings. In Now Eat My Script, Al Solh takes the transit of a sacrificed lamb in the trunk of her relative’s car as a starting point to reflect on the exchange of goods and food between her mother’s family in Syria and her family in Lebanon during times of conflict. The movement between families becomes a way of questioning the possibility of communicating trauma.
Along with these works, Mounira Al Solh presents new paintings, drawings, embroideries and patchwork textiles that reflect the playfulness of her practice. They call on familiar imagery and look at the use and experience of language to explore the suspended location of transition. These exercises utilize conversation as a way of disorienting and positioning oneself and ones surroundings, including communicated narrative excerpts on drawings of Syrians in transition in Lebanon, imagined discussions on art by Lebanese politicians, and contrasting meanings through the rearrangement of Arabic letters.
Mounira Al Solh, born in Beirut in 1978 studied at the Lebanese University of Beirut and in Amsterdam at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and the Rijksakademie. She had solo exhibitions at Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut, at Kunsthalle Lisbon, Portugal, and Art in General, New York (2012) as well as group shows at Homeworks, Beirut (2013); The New Museum, New York (2012); Haus Der Kunst, Munich (2010); Manifesta 8, Murcia, Spain (2010); The Guild Art Gallery, Mumbai (2010); Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2011); Al Riwaq Art Space, Manama, Bahrain (2010); the Galerie Nord, Kunstverein Tiergarten, Berlin; and the 11th International Istanbul Biennial in 2009. Her video Rawane’s Song received the 2007 jury prize at VideoBrasil. Her video installation As If I Don’t Fit There was part of the first Lebanese Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2007.