Carleton Curatorial Laboratory (CCL): Art on a Green Line

January 19 - April 14, 2015

Foregrounds artists' vivid experiences of everyday life in Beirut during Lebanon's "Ahdeth."

Between 1975 and 1990, Lebanon was a battleground for local, regional, and international conflicts commonly referred to as the Civil Wars by foreigners and as the “foreign wars on our grounds,” or the “Ahdeth” [events], by Lebanese.

Beirut was split by competing ideologies that divided the nation. East Beirut was controlled by Christian parties claiming to fight for the preservation of the Lebanese nation-state against increasing Palestinian militancy. West Beirut was controlled by a coalition of Palestinian, Leftist, and Muslim parties claiming to fight for the primacy of the Palestinian cause against a hegemonic Christian regime.

A demarcation line separating East and West Beirut came to be known as the Green Line. While the origin of this designation is not certain, the Green Line aptly described the post-apocalyptic cityscape it traversed, where streets and buildings were overtaken by wild vegetation.

Although the boundary has ceased to exist physically, it remains psychologically present today as a negative site of memory that has at least two levels of meaning. First, it is a symbol of atrocity, a location of ruthless battles, kidnappings, and war crimes. Second, it represents a national identity crisis that continues to divide citizens along ideological lines.

Ultimately, the Green Line offered the perfect location with which to begin documenting the unwritten official history of the ongoing Lebanese wars and their intergenerational traumas.

This exhibition presents a collection of wartime narratives that are intriguingly woven across a rich variety of media, including photographs, videos, books, postcards, and even a metro map.

The artists’ firsthand experience of war at an early age gives their stories a heightened sense of reality. In their works, they blur the lines between truth and fiction, past and present, memory and history, home and exile, and personal and collective trauma. Each work comes to operate as an alternative form of history and memory, transporting knowledge and narratives about the Lebanese wars across borders, places and times.

Art on a Green Line won the “First Exhibition in a Public Art Gallery” award at the 38th annual Ontario Association of Art Galleries Awards in Toronto (2015).

Curated by

Johnny Alam

Artists in the exhibition

Hassan Choubassi, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Merdad Hage, Lamia Joreige, Jayce Salloum and Pierre Sidaoui