Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Claim your narrative, I claimed mine.

Recently, I saw the poster of an exhibition which dates back to 2015 which was hosted by a certain institution. The concept of the exhibition, the scenography, the artworks, the elements on the poster the whole she bang was mine. On the said poster, my name was nowhere to be found. Nowhere. 
Interestingly, I was thankfully in charge of the communication as I always am in my exhibitions. So the press material and the elements that were distributed digitally all had my name on them. 
This is but one detail of the many things that happened where my name as - intentionally or not - omitted. Still, I claim these events as ethically mine. Actually, a few years back I went into a "digital regrouping mode". There were too many sub-brands to my name, even the name of my previous blog was something that did not mention me (Beirut/NTSC). My publishing arm arm was called 7UPstrairs though it was a one-man-army. My writings were generously offered to other publications which, again, did not give me credit several times - or worse, hired me only to give me a salary reduction one week later (guess, who slammed the door behind him?). Actually even my LinkedIn profile was slightly altered so that it would not be telling the whole truth, without telling a lie. As a matter of fact, even was a masking tape for another sub-brand which did not take off.
Long story short, the digital regrouping worked, even if it meant sacrificing brands, side-projects and withholding my name from several other publications (these days, very rarely do I accept my work to be published elsewhere but here). I understand that for many - my name is fragmented: people who follow the blog might not be aware of my art, or my research, or know that I taught at master's level for fifteen years, or the other hats I wear. But that was a deliberate strategy on my part, and I wanted it to survive the afore-mentioned "digital regrouping".
Still, the exercise was worth it. I tightened the screws of the name, the "Tarek Chemaly" brand, controlled the ramifications of the projection to any of the works that has my name stamped on it. And despite setbacks because I am in Lebanon, which the quasi-totality of the Lebanese have suffered, my price list remained unchanged. I know that others are trying to adapt to the post-crash market and totally understand them, but to me - my clients which are stationed abroad were offered the same pricing as before the crisis started in Lebanon which brought the desperate need for "fresh money".
Lately, I was talking to someone and I told him I left my teaching position because it made more financial sense to remain at home, and his reply was "you can afford it". Well, here's the deal - if I can afford it or not, including my financial machinations are all part of a image am projecting to people. What happens behind the facade is purely mine, because the narrative I claimed does not include this part. 
Claiming your narrative allows you to control how you are seen. And to quote rapper Saweetie: "However, if you don't have a voice and if you don't speak up and create your own narrative, someone else will".