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DISPATCH METROPOLIS NOW: CONTEMPORARY ART AND CULTURE IN BEIRUT

Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Wonder Beirut #6, Rivoli Square, 1997–2006, C-print mounted on aluminum, 27 3/4 × 41 1/2". From the series “Wonder Beirut,” 1997–2006.

“WHAT IS BEIRUT?” The question, posed in the following pages by curator CHRISTINE TOHME, informs the contributions to Artforum’s annual Dispatch, just as it has continually animated Beirut’s cultural scene. All great cities are screens for hyperbolic projections, but perhaps none more so than Lebanon’s capital, which has long appeared in a dizzying array of guises: as gateway to the Levant, Eastern outpost of la dolce vita, war-torn Ballardian dystopia, and, most recently, disaster capitalism’s Mediterranean port of call. But for the artists and intellectuals who have been drawn to it, Beirut has been a laboratory, a place for vital experimentation. In making art about their city and its contested history, the members of the 1990s “Beirut School” have illuminated the past wherever chimerical cliché threatens to obscure it, while their remapping of the intersections of art, politics,

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