Beirut is the Levant’s hub for outstanding ideas and fresh innovations that raise Lebanon’s name worldwide. Despite all the economic and political struggles, nothing can seem to stop the Lebanese people from celebrating art & their love for their capital city.
Retrieving Beirut is an initiative by “Noir Clair” founder Donna Maria Feghaly. It gets spotlight attention this year within the Beirut Design Week bringing together international Lebanese artists and designers.
On May 24th at 6pm K-Timber Warehouse, Jisr El Wati was recycled into a pop-up store thanks to the creative participation of Unilux & Iguzzini. as well as the sponsors: Samsung, Piaff, Librairie Antoine, Al Oustoura, Pop-up and Media Partners: Kamsyn ,The Agenda Beirut, Prestige Magazine
This one-of-a-kind event included famous local and international artists coming from different backgrounds: graphic designers, photographers, architects, movie makers… sharing their works and artistic views about Beirut.
KAMSYN sat with “Retrieving Beirut” Founder Donna Maria Feghaly as well as Chadi Aoun & Karen Chekerdjian two of the 11 International artists exhibiting their works within Retrieving Beirut as they chose to showcase more than just art. They will be sharing their values, and vision of Beirut, through their eyes..
Artist Lineup: Chadi Aoun, Karen Chekerdjian, Charbel El Fakhri, Johnny Farah, Dimitri Haddad, Youssef Haidar, Abdallah Hatoum, Elie Moubarak, Mukhi Sisters & Anthony Sahyoun.
Talk with Donna Maria Feghaly Retrieving Beirut Founder
Donna Maria Feghaly, is an Interior Architect by training and a curious designer by trade. Her educational path includes studies in both Paris and Beirut, combining her love for Fine Arts and Architecture. Her deep desire to experiment and explore through different mediums and formats led her to set up her own studio in 2012 NOIR CLAIR that is behind the Retrieving Beirut Initiative.
Why did you launch “Retrieving Beirut ?
A big part of the media today focuses too much on the problems we have in Lebanon. This is influencing how Lebanese citizens and expats perceive Beirut and the country as a whole. I am convinced that artists, designers and intellectuals have a very important role in society as they offer interesting & unique views on life.
Most importantly they possess the most beautiful tool: the language of creativity and Art. This allows them to sensitize society and spread awareness. Retrieving Beirut as a platform for the “art engagé” will be the link between all the beautiful minds and the wide public so we can promote a positive image of Beirut and bring change.
What inspired you ? Why an underground space ?
Since the cityscape of Beirut is changing very rapidly, it is critical to highlight on “space recycling” and show that we can inject new life and function into existing architecture. Jisr El Wati’s industrial area is the perfect prototype of what I call the alien invasion of the residential buildings and it was the most interesting location for the launch of Retrieving Beirut.
What would you like to share with the visitors?
I am hoping that people will be inspired by the Artists’ works and that maybe slowly but surely positive change will start to happen.
What was your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge was the time factor as everything was done in only 4 months, from getting everyone on board to the space design and the execution. It was an intense tight schedule. I’m grateful to all the people I met and that helped me along the way.
Tell us more about you..
I love adventures and exploration on all levels. To find balance I go back to nature which relaxes me.
How did you select the artists featured ?
All the participating artists live and embrace the message they are promoting in Retrieving Beirut’s exhibition. I chose them for the integrity of their message, their values and what they incarnate.
What are your future plans ?
I believe in Beirut and will keep promoting my city through the “Retrieving Beirut” platform.
The next project will be an International collective exhibition where we will engage more Lebanese talents living abroad like we did with Elie Moubarak the Australian designer from Lebanese origins.
Chady Aoun: Breaking The Silence Through SAMT
Through all the reviving events happening today to show the positive, vivid Beirut, how do you think Retrieving Beirut is helping in sharing that image?
Despite the adverse political and social environments we are in, the number of events happening in the country is quite impressive. I have always believed in personal initiative, and that is exactly some of what is helping the country to hold together. Retrieving Beirut is a rare initiative that highlights the work, talent, and mostly the creative resources that Lebanon generates. This in itself is a positive and vivid contribution to the image of Beirut and Lebanon as whole. I hope it will become a yearly platform where diverse Lebanese creative voices and ideas can share their vision with the world.
Freedom of Speech, especially in the Arab world is a very sensitive topic to be discussed, yet you brought in a very fresh way, suitable for all ages genders and backgrounds. How come you decided to do it as an animation and not just as a short film?
SAMT is a very personal short movie I directed and animated, which tackles the subject of freedom in general; a vast subject, narrowed down to freedom of expression. And when I say expression, I don’t mean only speech. The movie will not screen at Retrieving Beirut, unfortunately, due to some sensitive scenes that are not suitable for very young audiences. However, it will very soon premiere at the Lebanese film Festival in June. The work that I am preparing for Retrieving Beirut is inspired from the short movie SAMT. I will be presenting the essence of this project: the city of Ghabra where the story unfolds. A beautiful city, and the status quo that is killing it.
Animation is a medium to express stories and ideas. It has been an emerging art form in Lebanon for the past decade, and I have high hopes for its future in this country. People express what they have to say differently, it so happens that I am comfortable with images I create on my own.
How do you think SAMT is contributing to raise awareness on the animation medium ?
This event gathers different talents whose work evolve around the same topic, Beirut the city and the artist in it. One of my tools for communication is story telling through animation. From my perspective, animation is a powerful, and a superb form of expression, that has the potential of reaching people, all ages and backgrounds combined. I hope that SAMT will contribute to animation as an art form of its own in Lebanon.
What kind of silence are you trying to break through “SAMT”? What sort of positive message are you trying to deliver to all the youth out there?
The kind of silence that individuals have the freedom to act upon. The silence that becomes a heavy habit and mandatory by the established systems and norms. We encounter this kind of silence in all walks of life. Honestly, I do not think of myself as message deliverer. I like to think of it more as delivering a spark, that could potentially initiate a conversation en tête-à-tête with oneself. Because that is where the possibility of change starts. I just made a movie about a deep rooted subject, and I am sharing it. If it speaks to others, that would be beautiful.
If you could retrieve one thing in Beirut, what would it be?
I would retrieve the sectarian system we inherited, and just toss it away.
Karen Chekerdjian: Beirut…Through Her eyes.
After the huge success you achieved in Marketing and Advertising, how did you find your passion for Industrial Design and what encouraged you to shoot this short film?
It was serendipity! I found myself in Milan with a friend. Upon entering the DOMUS Academy an inner voice drew me in. My journey wishing to pursue Industrial Design commenced; somehow by pure instinct.
After being granted the unique honor and carte blanche by Paris’ Institut du monde Arabe for Respiration , I went to (re)visit the museum space in greater depth.
As a natural preparatory opening, I felt it necessary to articulate Beirut’s “Seen through my Eyes” for visitors to understand the world I come from. Before they visit the three floors of the exhibition and discover my featured designs.
The idea of the film was to visually illustrate the city that has brought me up, shaped me and my designs….The Beirut that I stem from and The Beirut that makes me constantly breathe –respire-
Beirut is one of a hell of a city, and we see a lot of artists trying to show what an amazing city it is. How does Karen try to Retrieve Beirut in her short film?
Simply by showing how I move about in the city-Beirut seen up-close- and- personal through my eyes: the beauty, the brutal and the hidden. The places that heighten my senses, stir my curiosity and allow me to breath. So I can be and design.
With all the challenges we witness today that are facing the design industry in Lebanon, what message do you hope to deliver, through Retrieving Beirut, to all the people attending ?
Beirut is city of contrast, controversy and magic – it’s The city that constantly rises above all, recovers and re-invents itself again and again …Beirut continues to surprise even us in moments of adversity.
If you could replace the Retrieving word in “Retrieving Beirut”, what would you put instead?
One word synonym or acronym will not define Beirut. Beirut has too many façades and layers – I would simply answer differently and say “Beirut remains Beirut and is one of a kind” . That is why I personally decided to come back and reside here. Versus obtaining my degree at DOMUS Academy in Milan.
What message floats in your bottle ?
The film aired during “Retrieving Beirut” and during “Respiration” at the Institut du monde Arabe from 31st May to 27th August, 2016 – will be a window to the International community that hopefully will open a contextual dialogue to help illuminate the way the exhibition is curated.
To follow Karen: http://karenchekerdjian.com