Jey Perie and Gorgy Esparza came to Beirut in 2016, what followed is an adventure telling stories about the youth, from affluent to disenfranchised and chronicling it via a book which is on sale in addition to t-shirts via the Beirut Youth website. In an email interview with Jey Perie I tried to elucidate some elements of this project, from the logo, to the purposes, passing via the involvement of Adidas Originals and other aspects.
First the logo - it has nuances of the Hezbollah logo, who came up with it and how did it eventually take shape?Yes, our logo is inspired by the iconic Hezbollah flag. I came up with the idea of transforming an icon that has a very negative connotation here in the West, and redesign it with very subtle changes mainly by adding positive iconography including the word Shabbab, the rose and the dove. I want people to think and see beyond the images, and challenge what they have been told about Lebanon, Beirut, and the Middle East youth in general. For some, this logo is very provocative, but it always triggers interesting and necessary conversations about our western vision of the Middle East.
The project has a store selling t-shirts but also a gofundme page, where will the money go and for what?
This project is 100% self funded. In addition to the gofundme donation page, half of the profit from the tee shirts and books will go to CYC, a children and youth center located in the refugee camp of Shatila in Beirut. CYC members have been very helpful when we were shooting in the camp. Their mission of bringing joy and education to the kids of Shatila through football and basketball is something my partner and I strongly believe in. We are going to stretch the Beirut Youth show all year long with additional show in Dubai, Tokyo and Los Angeles, we are hoping to raise 5,000$ and travel to Beirut again in December to donate it in person, in form of cash but also sport equipment, stationary etc…
The t-shirts you sell have Arabic on them, in the current xenophobic atmosphere of the US how do you think they will sell, to whom and how the reaction will be?
I believe that within our community of like minded young and creative people in the US but also Europe and Asia, enough people will understand our goals, appreciate our aesthetic and want to support by buying the tee shirt or the book.
The response have been very positive so far. Besides the sale of the tee shirts, it’s been amazing to bring to America a positive image of Beirut and the Middle East in general. A lot of people around me had their entire perspective on the region change because of these powerful images, and that was the real objective of the show.
Is there a follow up for this project? Any specific objective?
Our goal is to explore the diversity and universality of youth cultures worldwide. Gogy and I will push the Beirut Youth project until the end of the year and probably go back out there in December for a final show. Next, I would like to do further research on the situation of youth culture in Caracas and Tehran, two cities going thru massive changes and also often misunderstood in America. I hope I’ll find the time to travel and start working on these two cities in 2018.
Where does Adidas Originals comes in this and how is it involved in the project?
Adidas Originals offered us a platform here in NY by inviting us to show our work in their gallery and finance the production of the gallery show. I presented them our project with a simple trailer and a presentation in January of this year, they immediately understood what we wanted to do and agreed to support us.
In a statement on Hypebeast you say: "My experience in Lebanon has reinforced the idea that western youth have a responsibility to create relevant and authentic culture" - what does "authentic culture" mean in the context? Can a youth do anything apart from living their lives?
It goes not only with Lebanon, but also with the rest of the world. The American youth culture has a powerful and global reach with sometime an absence of filter which make it hard for kids around the world to understand the context in which this Art has been created in. Hip Hop and New York subculture had a huge influence on me growing up in the south of France, I won’t be where I am now without these influences. However I believe America and the West in general also export cultures and values that can be materialistic and destructive. That’s where our responsibility lies I believe.