Critics’ Picks

Zineb Sedira, Of Words and Stones, 2018, mixed media, dimensions variable. Installation view.

Beirut

Zineb Sedira

Beirut Art Center
Jisr El Wati Building 13, Street 97, Zone 66
October 24 - December 23

Zineb Sedira calls herself a guardian of memories, but in the opening video of her first solo exhibition in Beirut, Don’t do to her what you did to me, 1998–2001, she erases them. The video shows a portrait of a woman submerged in water, until the titular words written on it liquesce into pools of ink, in an aestheticization of destruction. This work, like many others throughout the exhibition, speaks to its surroundings—a city caught between preserving and rebuilding after war.

In her new site-specific installation, Of Words and Stones, 2018, a red line over a row of stones divides the gallery in two, resonant of the line that divided Beirut during the civil war. In the first half, the photographic series “Sugar Routes,” 2013, shows empty stone spaces with anonymous truck tracks or scratches of sticks. The red line reappears in the compilation of sculpture, photography, and video in the second half, which attempts to preserve the borders of Sedira’s father’s territory and forms the nucleus of the show. In the video piece Inconsistent Mapping, 2017, a Photoshop user superimposes a colonial-era map over an aerial photograph of the land. Her father’s diligent footsteps along the perimeter, captured in the video Tracing a Territory, 2016, threaten to unravel into abstracted spools of red thread in the neighboring sculpture, Walk the Line, 2018, highlighting the futility of the project’s own archival mission. Yet there is hope—like the scars of human contact on the rocks in “Sugar Routes,” Sedira’s work does not fully preserve personal histories destroyed by war, but it does leave traces of their memories.