Everybody Knows this is Nowehere stemmed from the desire to create a collaborative work by an artist, a curator and a filmmaker. The roles of the collaborators have become intertwined and blurred, making the designations of each somewhat obsolete, where all three turn into the main audience of the work. “Everybody Knows this is Nowhere” is a video piece thought by Ghassan Salhab and probed by Mayssa Fattouh and Nesrine Khodr for the project Through the Roadblocks which invited curators throughout the Mediterranean region to explore issues revolving around cultural production and its movements, in its interweaving and overlapping beyond geographical borders imposed by political mapping.
The film taps on the semantical aspect of borders and frontiers delving into the human essence. “The question of alterity poses the question of borders” – known to be formulated by Herodotus – is a question still as valid today as it was back in Greek times in the 5th century BC. Here, Ghassan Salhab raises timeless questions such as duality shown through its use of the diptych and the idea of containment, appearing in the image of the checkpoint, where the flows of the body, language, and expressions are controlled within a defined territory. The factor of time comes to play a major role in the way it rules the body and the psyche. In his minimalist approach, Salhab’s video immerses the viewer in a reality that is known too well but often ignored, with a reference to the Lebanese political state and the abstraction in which a human being faces in such conditions, highlighted in the poignant pose of waiting, in itself a condition relating to the human essence in Heideggerian philosophy. By raising the question of otherness, Salhab also challenges the understanding of borders into all that is physically and mentally outside of oneself.
Having to face the idea of showing this video, a minimalist diptych with philosophical depth, the three collaborators opted out the exhibition format, making it instead an un-announced week long participatory viewing session in a non-conventional, non-exhibition space that breaks away from the contemporary art industry and market spaces and rituals of white cubes. The second life of the collaboration and the piece as a finished consumable artwork starts as a discussion form between the three collaborates amongst themselves and expands with the passing by viewers and their inputs to form a compilation and at a later stage a small publication, of the questions, views and opinions on the nature of such a work and collaboration.
The essence of such an approach is best expressed through Nicolas Bourriaud’s notion which he highlights in his book Postproduction:
“The contemporary work of art does not position itself as the termination point of the ‘creative process’ but as a site of navigation, a portal, a generator of activities.”
This process driven project highlights the trading of ideas between curator, artist and audience, aesthetics and knowledge production base, challenging the often canonized commodified contemporary art world as well as the limits of public and private contexts for art. The project was made possible through much resilience and passion and autofunded by the sale of the three video editions.
While this project is independent in its implementation and form, it will be connected in its out-scope to the platform Through the Roadblocks – an initiative launched by NeMe – which has invited several cultural practitioners from the Mediterranean region to participate in a search that would explore through art and theory issues revolving around cultural production and its movements, in its interweaving and overlapping beyond geographical borders imposed by political mapping.
The emphasis in this platform, broadly speaking, is in seeing how artists together with scholars create collaborative art and ideas as a method of suggesting tactics for rethinking cultural and political boundaries, despite democracy’s battered silhouette and the heavy hand of history especially in this region. This project will be presented at a 3 day Through the roadblocks conference which will have as main guest speakers Gayatri Spivak and Tariq Ali. The conference, scheduled for 23, 24, and 25 November 2012, will gather these multiple autonomous projects to foster a constructive dialogue and debate around the proposed questions.
- Curators: Mayssa Fattouh and Nesrine Khodr
- Artist filmmaker: Ghassan Salhab
- Locations: Plan Bey locale – Mar Mikhael An-Naher, Beirut, Lebanon