Photography as a subject

Most likely, everything will interest him. Everything asks him. Everything in his immediate environment, from urban experiences to the objects that appear there, challenges his views as an anthropologist or an aesthete. And then everything is translated with this vision in terms of materials, textures, shadows, lights and transparency. Gilbert Hage is one of those who live his experiences on a daily basis. It’s the definition of experience, you’ll tell me. Earth is like a Child Who Memorizes Poems is a line from the poet Rainer Maria Rilke (Orpheus songs No. 21). That’s the title of the exhibition currently at Galerie Tanit, where Hagen presents three projects, including two new ones.

The most important corpus is the corpus that gives the exhibition its name. It consists of a photo set on the theme of tulips executed in 2020. Poor witnesses to the Covid era and the arresting practices it has brought about, tulips were among the familiar objects of Hagen’s retreat village of Chatine. “They are the fruit of an encounter,” he likes to say. It’s an encounter that takes place through the screen of a smartphone, which allows for both spontaneous and intimate contact with the environment. So it takes more than shots.

Gilbert Hage, Untitled #048, Earth Poems Like a Child Memorizing, 2020, Pigment Print on Art Paper, 26.9cm x 23.3cm, 21+2AP edition. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Tanit Beirut/Munich.

Discolored and placed on a black background, the resulting diaphanous objects evoke the flora of the Moon, a flora whose transparent texture also recalls a precious material, glass paste or opaline, if this were not impossible in itself. Now nothing unites these tulips with their organic reality but the fine veins that cut them. Too transparent to suggest matter, too opaque to constitute photographic negatives, these transitional elements place their imaginary existence somewhere in between, on the border of fantasy.

What Haig proposes to question in his work are the physical properties of this object, that is, the properties of reality perceived by sight and touch. The fluffy, fleshy, sexual, black roses in the 28 Roses (1999) series are the stark antithesis of white tulips with their radiant materiality. Unmaterialized, the latter also tends to disappear spectrality light. Because with Gilbert Hage, the subject matter is essentially photography. It is about showing the material properties of an object, penetrating its texture, surpassing it in the image it possesses. Taken out of context, the object can be understood as a place of photographic exploration.

Gilbert Hage, Untitled #2, from the series 28 Roses, 1999, Baryta silver print, edition of 3 + 1 AP. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Tanit Beirut/Munich.

It is also a way of relating to time, of nature, of infinite smallness, of the cycle of life and death, of being a part of it. And the desire to experience the extraordinary ordinariness things. “Spring has returned. Earth is like a child who memorizes poems. Rilke’s verse says, a title that alludes to spring, the flowering season, the rebirth of nature after its death. All this, of course, creates a series of effects and representations through which the experience of the period of imprisonment is expressed. So it’s an ode to the earth, because it’s the one that ultimately survives when everything else disappears. Therefore, the earth is like a “living” child. Something inside him speaks and it is a miracle.

Gilbert Hage, Untitled, from the series 28 Roses, 1999, Baryta Silver Print, 25.8cm x 25cm, 3+1 AP edition. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Tanit Beirut/Munich.

On the other hand, it is a completely different project proposed by Gilbert Hage in the third place, almost the opposite of the decorations, at the end of this journey that ends in the corridor of the gallery with the gallery. Tufican Zombies? (2021), The post-Covid project. Therefore, there is no connection other than a chronological connection between the tulips and the heads sculpted in terracotta, perfect or deformed, excavated from the graveyard of heads, and interesting enough to form the subject of this third photo series to see what Haig imagines to be images. zombies. Materiality plays an equally important role here, where the aesthetic challenge is to bring out the roughness of the earth, in a statement Gilbert Hage refers to Jalal Tufiç.

Gilbert Hage, Nameless 8, Toufican Zombies? from the series, 2021, Fine Art Pigment Print, 110 cm x 85.5 cm, edition of 5 + 2 AP. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Tanit Beirut/Munich.

A passage from Jalal Toufic actually functions as a reading grid here: “In the aftermath of disproportionate disasters, we need the nightmare to continue to suggest to us how broken the country we live in by its mere presence (…) and thus post-war Lebanon, Survivors in Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, etc. are faced with the following choice: they endure the spirit and resist the temptation to repress or expel it, or they gradually become zombies. zombies.” (Jalal Toufic, Vampires: An Unsettling Essay on the Undead in Film, revised and expanded edition, Sausalito, CA: Post-Apollo Press, 2003, p. 104–105). In his text, Toufic also emphasizes that he is talking about zombies in the Haitian sense of the term, that is, people who are real in Haitian culture (and not just creatures of science fiction), usually victims of voodoo magic. raising the dead or destroying an individual’s conscience. In popular culture, a zombie is a partially dismembered undead. Therefore, it is a sign of a gangrenous, degenerate, depraved, completely dehumanized humanity. At the end of the Covid era, experienced by Hage as a universal good, it is significant that the figure of the zombie comes to sign a relationship with a world that is becoming more complex, a world in which it is also difficult to find oneself. and find your a human being.

Not really a thematic exhibition, as the title might seem to suggest, but rather an inventory of Haig’s recent works, it should also be understood as a diary of these times of uncertainty, both stimulating and disturbing. First of all, to be understood as many excuses to work with anything that can be seen or touched. A phenomenological approach to everyday life.

Gilbert Hage lives, teaches and works in Lebanon. Since 2004, he has exhibited at Galerie Tanit in Munich and Beirut, as well as Paris Foto. His work has been exhibited at major international events, including the Sharjah Biennale (2011), the Rencontres d’Arles in France (2011), the Sur Biennale in Argentina (2017), the Venice Architecture Biennale (2018), the Institut du monde arabe in Paris (2019 and more recently, the last two in Marina Bastianello Gallery in Venice (2021), Contemporary Art Space in Lisbon in Beirut (2021), Galerie 8 + 4 in Paris (2021), Villa Empain in Brussels (2021), Soma Art Gallery in Cairo (2022), Halle 14 in Leipzig (2022) , at the Abbaye de Jumièges in France (2022) and the Art Lab in Berlin (2022).His works are part of the collections of the Center Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Museum of Photography in Thessaloniki and the Saradar Foundation in Beirut.

Earth is like a Child Who Memorizes Poems At the Tanit-Mar Michael gallery, until February 28, 2003.

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