Friday, July 1, 2016

Nasri Sayegh, of Beirut, and definite maybes

Artwork by Nasri Sayegh
Is it our late diva Sabah? Is it the Murr Tower? Is it the pigeon's rock (Rawche)? Is it the memory? The present? The bleak future? No matter, "Beyrouth, peut-etre" running at the French Cultural Institute by Nasri Sayegh is a gem in itself. It asks more questions than it answers, it pokes (even if Facebook erased such a function), disturbs, entertains and eventually - much like Beirut - keeps you wanting more all while teasing you.
I am very partial to Nasri's work, and - for me - he was the front runner in last year's Byblos Bank photography award even if it went to Carmen Yahchouchi. Everything is blurred in Nasri's Beirut, everything is in a state of flux. Nothing is definite, nothing is concrete even if made of concrete and imposing such as the Murr Tower which comes back again and again - hauntingly, beautifully, perhaps even lovingly.
Colors are not the theme, and their presence, melancholic and almost sad, only adds an extra layer to the works. I have spoken of the Beirut Syndrome before, of us being hostages to the city of Beirut yet loving it eventually even if it holds us captives. "Beirut is like a snake, it needs to shed its skin periodically to survive" I once said in an interview for a Swedish publication, Nasri hangs on to the shed exoskeleton, dissects it, hoping to get answers of what was in it - meanwhile Beirut fleets, unaware or even uninterested in the collateral damage it has generated in its morphing.
As we, spectators and artist, get stuck in the past, trying to establish fictive landmarks and references to go to so as to comprehend the present, Beirut is elsewhere, it is changing and mutating and looks in bewilderment at the naive entities trying to understand it.
"Beyrouth, peut-etre" - Beirut, maybe - a big perhaps, a tentative question and even more irrelevant answer. Yet a musing to be contemplated, absorbed, loved and in all the tenderness it shows with Nasri, I cannot but remember that inside every love there is a grain of hate, and all the elements that make the loving in question can one day flip to become the flaws that breed the dissent.
"Mais la vie separe ceux qui s'aiment tout doucement" so sang Yves Montand, yes, life tends to seperate those who are in love, but for now, let us all enjoy this impossible idylle between Nasri and Beirut. For the greatest loves are those to the unknown entities, just as the greatest longings are to places we never know - something the Portuguese term "saudade" epitomizes brilliantly.

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