The work of Akram Zaatari (b. 1966, Saida, Lebanon) explores the role of images, memory, and desire in situations of war. Describing his artistic practice as “field work,” the artist addresses the cultural and political conditions of postwar Lebanon and the Middle East. Along with the events of the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990) and the history of conflict and resistance in the region, Zaatari’s work also focuses on representations of sexuality and intimacy.
In Tomorrow Everything Will Be Alright (2010), two men separated ten years before express their desire to meet again. A story of longing and reunion, it revisits the legend of Jules Verne’s “green ray,” a flash of light said to occur after sunset or before sunrise, and thought to be a sign of fortune and love for those who see it. Nature Morte (Tabiaah Samitah) (2008) is what Zaatari calls a “poetic document that is not a fiction, but not a documentary either.” In the film, two men sit in a darkened room as one methodically assembles an explosive device. Red Chewing Gum (Al Ilka al-Hamra) (2000) takes the form of a “video-letter,” in which a narrator revisits an incident that occurred years earlier on Hamra Street, a commercial and tourist center of Beirut. With the sound of gunshots behind them, he and his lover meet a young street vendor in an alley who sits chewing the gum he is supposed to be selling—a single red piece frozen in memory among the white ones.
Several of the artist’s works screened throughout the exhibition explore the mediating role of images and text in personal, archival, and historical narratives. In This House (Fi Hatha al-Bayt) (2005) focuses on a letter written, and then buried in a mortar bomb, by a Lebanese resistance fighter. This Day (Al Yaoum) (2003) explores the production and circulation of images across the Middle East, from romantic photographs of camels and Bedouins, to television footage of war-torn Beirut. All is Well on the Border (Al-Shareet bi-Khayr) (1997) presents three testimonies reflecting the experiences of prisoners held in detention centers during the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon.
Zaatari is the also the co-founder of the Arab Image Foundation (Beirut, 1997) a Beirut-based nonprofit association founded in 1997 with photographers Fouad Elkoury and Samer Mohdad. The Foundation’s mission is to collect, preserve, and study photographs from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Arab diaspora. By collecting, archiving, and analyzing this visual history of the Middle East, the foundation situates the production and circulation of images in the context of a geographically divided Middle East as a register of social and political history.
Tomorrow Everything Will Be Alright is organized by João Ribas, Curator, MIT List Visual Arts Center
About the Artist
Akram Zaatari was born in Saida, Lebanon, in 1966. He received a Bachelor of Architecture from The American University of Beirut and a Master of Arts in Media Studies from The New School University in New York. His works have been shown in various solo exhibitions, including at the Museo del Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (León, Spain); Kunsternes Hus (Oslo, Norway); Moderna Galerija Ljubljana (Slovenia) Galerie Sfeir-Semier (Beirut); Kunstverein München, (Munich); The Townhouse Gallery, Cairo; La Caixa, (Barcelona), Portikus, (Frankfurt); and The Photographer’s Gallery (London) among others. His work has also been featured in the Istanbul Biennial; the Venice Biennale; the Sharjah Biennial; the Sao Paulo Biennial; the Gwangju Biennial; and the Sydney Biennale.
Funding for this exhibition has been provided by Ghassan and Manal Saab, The Agha Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, the Committee on Race and Diversity at MIT, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the Council for the Arts at MIT. Media sponsorship provided by the Phoenix Media Communications Group. Major support provided by MIT and the Office of the Associate Provost at MIT. Special thanks to the MIT List Advisory Committee and the Friends of MIT List.