Christine Tohme

  • Aristophanes’s The Birds, 414 BC, in a production directed by Nikos Karanthanos, 2016. Rehearsal view, Onassis Cultural Centre, Athens, September 16, 2016. Photo: Stavros Habakis.

    Christine Tohme

    1 THE BIRDS (ONASSIS CULTURAL CENTRE, ATHENS, SEPTEMBER 17–23; DIRECTED BY NIKOS KARATHANOS) Aristophanes’s simple story about man’s desire to fly, to migrate to new worlds, is enduringly witty and perverse. Karathanos’s production gave poetic urgency to the play’s theme of fluidity among the categories of man, animal, and god, embracing our inherent need to dream and offering hope for decadence.

    2 FC BERGMAN, HET LAND NOD (THE LAND OF NOD; ZÜRCHER THEATER SPEKTAKEL, ZURICH, AUGUST 18–21) The set—a stripped-down replica of the Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp’s Rubens room, with a facsimile of

  • Joe Namy, Automobile, 2013. Performance view, street in front of Ashkal Alwan, Beirut, May 13, 2013. Photo: Omar Nasser.

    Christine Tohme

    YOU CAN’T TALK ABOUT LEBANON IN ISOLATION—you have to understand it as part of a region where things are unstable, where the whole map is being redrafted. The recent developments in Iraq, the war in Syria, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the situation in Yemen—all of these things must be considered in juxtaposition to whatever is happening locally. Whatever happens in Yemen, for example, is reflected on the ground in Lebanon—suddenly there will be tension here between the sects that are fighting there. And for decades, upheavals in neighboring countries have led displaced people to


    FROM THE PERSPECTIVE of an art magazine published in New York, the conflict that erupted this summer between Lebanon and Israel is at once near and far—a geopolitical situation of enormous gravity, wrenchingly and unremittingly conveyed in the global press yet difficult to plumb, perhaps by virtue of that very mediation. Artforum has, of course, neither the expertise nor the hubris to pretend to offer any corrective or comprehensive analysis. But we could not simply ignore the crisis.

    As it happened, art historian and critic T. J. Demos had already begun work for us on a review of Modern Art

  • Christine Tohme

    I DON’T THINK WE’VE EVER lived through a postwar period. There is no “postwar” in Lebanon, only pauses. I don’t think artists have reached a notion of time and space where they can get past the civil war.

    There was the outbreak of the civil war in 1975, the Israeli invasion in 1982, and then the “Grapes of Wrath” campaign in 1996. The effects of this ongoing state of conflict are seen in the history of Ashkal Alwan, the nonprofit arts organization I direct, and in its projects. The Home Works Forum on Cultural Practices—a conference with performances and exhibitions attended by artists, curators,