Rabih Mroué. I, the Undersigned The People Are Demanding


Rabih Mroué, Exhibition poster (Intervention), Design: L2M3 Kommunikation, Stuttgart, Photo: Hans D. Christ
Exhibition poster (Intervention), Design: L2M3 Kommunikation, Stuttgart, Photo: Hans D. Christ

From May 22 to July 31, 2011 the Württembergischer Kunstverein is presenting the first solo exhibition by Lebanese artist Rabih Mroué to be held in Germany. The exhibition is curated by Cosmin Costinaş, curator of BAK, basis voor actuele kunst in Utrecht, where the exhibition was first on show in 2010.

For the exhibition an individual, stage-like architecture has been developed in close collaboration with the artist.

Mroué, who works within the spheres of theater, performance, and the visual arts, counts among the key figures of the Lebanese art scene established after the (formal) end of the civil war in the nineteen-nineties.

Against the backdrop of the ongoing Arab Revolution, the artist erased and replaced the original exhibition title, I, the Undersigned—which referred to an older work by Mroué—in terms of a radical reformulation of the presentation in Utrecht.

The new title—I, the Undersigned The People Are Demanding—takes up the slogan lending wings to the people’s uprisings in North Africa, the impact of which is at present nearly impossible to gauge. Again, The People Are Demanding is the title of the artist’s most recent work, which is comprised of a wall text supplementing this sentence fragment with a selection of possible—and at the same time contradictory—demands. The People Are Demanding is to be considered a homage to the reinvigoration of community.

The erasure in the title finds its correspondence in the exhibition where the work I, the Undersigned (2007) has been removed, only traces of it remaining visible to the public. Originally, it contained the artist’s striking apology for his part in the Lebanese civil war. However, during these days of revolutionary upheaval—with the masses coming together for (temporary) common purposes—the artist considers the subjective “I” to be suspended, half-voluntarily, half under an accepted pressure.

In his works, Mroué investigates enduring conflicts which have played out in the Middle East, particularly in Lebanon. Specifically treated here are events that have been suppressed as part of the prevailing political climate in Lebanon, in relation both to the ramifications of the Lebanese civil war and to more recent developments. The political and cultural contexts of these conflicts are spotlighted, as are more general questions concerning the construction of identity, history, and memory.

Mroué’s works, which are based on documents (newspaper clippings, found photos videos, et cetera) from his comprehensive archive, sedulously traverse the boundaries between fiction and reality. They interleave “facts” from the past with speculation about the present, and individual experiences with those of the collective. Here Mroué is focused less on remembering than on forgetting—an act of forgetting in the sense of an active process of coming to terms with the past.

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