- Rabih Mroué, Face A Face B, 2002, video
Active in the visual arts, theater and script writing, Rabih Mroué is one of the leading names in visual arts and performance in Lebanon, having featured in the latest editions of events such as the Documenta (Kassel, Germany) and WRO Media Art Biennale (Wroclaw, Poland). The founder of the Beirut Art Center, dedicated to contemporary art with an emphasis on supporting local artists, Mroué first knew the damage caused by the Lebanese civil war that would later permeate his output at eight years of age – or at least so he tells us.
Rabih Mroué’s narrative approaches actual and fantasized events with equal credibility. The artist likens the chopped up memories that compose “reality” to elements from dreams: “I cannot remember any dream in its entirety. I fill in the gaps. I have fragments from my childhood, so I also try to fill the gaps. I create new events, new life, new stories,” he tells Videobrasil.
According to the curator Inti Guerrero, who wrote a text about Mroué and his work for the book Unerasable Memories, the artist’s work connects with the “torrid macro-history” of the times of conflict without resorting to “emotional elegies to the victims of war” or “graphic representations of violence.” He also notes that more relevant than the veracity of the facts exposed is Mroué’s ability to “connect personal memories and history, not only producing a work of art, but outlining his own semiotics.”
In Face A, Face B, accounts recorded on cassette recount the daily lives of the artist and his family during the conflict. The tapes, whose purpose was to convey the news to Mroué’s brother who was studying in the Soviet Union, begin by showing the subtle interferences of war: the change of address, the accent acquired in the new place of residence – the South of the country. In 1978, Israeli troops occupied the region looking to eliminate the Palestine Liberation Organization’s bases in the country. The film progresses on to the laughter of the mother, who grows accustomed to the war, and the account of a shelling that supposedly hit the artist’s house in 1989 – according to him, his name was on the wounded list. On attempting to remember the past, Mroué fruitlessly seeks photographs to match the recorded voices, or voices to match the images shown. The narrator, who claims to be the sole survivor at the time when Face A, Face B was made, was ultimately able to combine his voice with his image – video as a medium, life as a possibility.
Face A, Face B was added to the Videobrasil Collection as of the 14th International Electronic Art Festival Videobrasil, and is also a part of the collections of museums such as Barcelona’s Museu d'Art Contemporani and Berlin’s Neuer Berliner Kunstverein.
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