This residency program focused on the different perceptions of water and their implications. How could we rethink our relationship to water, both as a fundamental resource for survival and as a basic human right?
In collaboration with the Temporary Art Platform (T.A.P), BeMA: The Beirut Museum of Art, an initiative of APEAL (Association for the Promotion and Exhibition of the Arts in Lebanon), launched its second Artists-in-Residence program as part of its outreach mission.
The project fell under a shared interest in supporting contemporary art practices and engaging local communities across Lebanon through contextual projects.
The residency took place between May 1 and May 31, 2017 in the southern Lebanese town of Jezzine and revolved around the theme of water.
With its famous waterfall and abundance of water resources such as springs, dams, rivers, lakes and streams, the town of Jezzine provided the inspiration for this year’s theme. Water is one of the most abused elements in the modern world, so the 2017 program focused on the various perceptions we have of water and their implications.
How, for example, might we rethink our relationship with this fundamental resource for survival, which is or at least should be, a basic human right?
There were a number of different ways this thematic could be explored. Water in Jezzine is an important socio-cultural element because of the ways it is perceived as bringing people together. It is also closely associated with agriculture and nature. Expanding on its aesthetic and philosophical essence, water has a political and economic dimension and in South Lebanon, its availability (or lack thereof) is also directly correlated to regional geopolitical reality and stability.
“Water as matter” as well as “water as subject” has been dealt with extensively in contemporary art practices, especially within the discourse surrounding the Anthropocene Era.
But how and through which platforms can the subject seep into contemporary art practice? How do we approach water as a space and a time that reflects on the residency format per se? How to rethink water as contaminated and healing? How to question water as matter while dealing with our surrounding context?
The artists in residence conducted research and implemented their proposals. They assigned the necessary time and depth to explore the context of Jezzine through the theme of water. Proposals adopted a participatory approach creating an access point for the community to engage with contemporary art. One of the directions explored through the residency was an attempt to create a tangible result, either a collective artwork or a community project, as a seed to be sown by the artists and reaped by the town.
A public program accompanied the residency, with events and workshops addressing the theme of water organized in collaboration with local partners, guest-artists and speakers and targeting both the resident artists and the Jezzine community.
The event was held in partnership with SOILS, the only permaculture association in Lebanon, which is located in the nearby village of Saidoun and addressed the residency’s needs in terms of research and introducing artists to the practice of permaculture. The residency provided participants with a proactive working environment to develop or complete proposed projects through production and curatorial content. Together with guest tutors, the coordinator accompanied participants, guiding them through discursive and logistical input and support.
Jezzine has been undergoing major changes in the past few years. It is the capital of the Jezzine District in the Southern Governorate and is famous for its waterfall and pine forests, which make it a favorite tourist destination in south Lebanon.
As part of the Union of Jezzine Municipalities, the town set in place a policy of nature conservation, particularly regarding the protection and management of water. Projects implemented so far have included the building of water channels and rainwater collection ponds for irrigation, restarting the pumping of the Jezzine waterfall and developing a wastewater management plan.
Some of the landmarks that characterize the traditional character of this diverse village that may be of interest to the participants in terms of research include the 400 year-old Kanaan Palace, the Niha Grotto, the Serhal Palace, the Azzibeh farm, local traditions like cutlery and dagger-making and an abundance of local wine and food products.
BEMA JEZZINE RESIDENCY
Municipality of Jezzine, The Union of Jezzine Municipalities, SOILS Permaculture Association Lebanon