Beirut
Home Works

Choubassi, Tony Chakar and many others of the visual artists I meet have just participated in Home Works 3, the ambitious art festival that took place in October. Run by the impressive Christine Tohme, this festival operates in nomadic fashion across varying locations throughout the city. Strangely enough for a city bubbling with arts, there is no museum for contemporary art and no real theatre for innovative performances. Only next spring, Tohme's Ashkal Alwan Foundation and a few other independent art organisations are going to move into their own shared space, an abandoned factory. Home Works' history illustrates the turmoils this region has been going through over the past years. As it aims to bring together artists from the Middle East, Europe and the US, it had to be postponed three times: first because of the Palestinian intifadah, then because of the Iraq war, and this year because of the Hariri assassination. And yet, it continues to survive. Judging from the catalogues, the publications and a selection of this year's films and video's, it isn't hard to see how this festival helps build up a regional identity in which memories are not suppressed, war is stared right in the face, and art crosses boundaries of ethnicity, religion and its own disciplines. And of course, this is very often city art. The different temporalities, truths and worlds of which every big city consists are the natural habitat of these artists. Seen in the context of all this work, I am starting to understand more about how serious the game of fact and fiction, history and memory is that I first encountered in the work of the young Lebanese staying at DasArts. Just a random example, picked up from the catalogue of Home Works 2, held in November 2003: two pages on Lamia Joreige:

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