History of the Last Things Before the Last: Art as Writing History

Fondation Saradar, Beirut, , December 01, 2012

Organized by: Clément Chéroux and Akram Zaatari

A collaboration between: Centre Pompidou, Paris / Arab Image Foundation, Beirut

In partnership with the Institut Français and Fondation Saradar

In his book History of the last things before the last, Siegfried Kracauer made a fundamental analogy between the work of the historian and that of the photographer. Both of them are grounded in a given reality and both of them propose an interpretation. They entertain a dialectic relation with the real world, one that is based on dependence as much as on distancing.

The artistic practices developed in Beirut in the nineties and later in the years 2000 seem to have absorbed, repositioned, or elaborated Kracauer's ideas.


Artists from this generation, nowadays all in their forties, use mostly the photographic medium, or other derivative analog technologies such as film and video. They question national historical narratives, troubling the very notion of narrative and the use of documents, while writing and re- writing history and memory, confusing and blurring past and present. They posit a fundamental question about the power of documents, the political and plastic value of the archive. They redefine truth by liberating it from its factual value, thus speculate on the fragility historical "truth".


What has been designated as the "Lebanese scene," constitute today a scene where questions on the responsibility of the artist facing history find fertile ground, and a place where history becomes a desired subject for artists.


This symposium aims to put together artists, historians and intellectuals, Lebanese, French and others to raise and discuss continuing artists' investment in the writing of history. It gives a platform to artists and historians to give a theoretical framework to what have been addressed with great plasticity. The questions raised in this symposium will extend into a publication that is planned to come out at a later stage.

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