Saturday, August 7, 2021

On "the gesture" by Nadim Karam

First, a disclosure: I know Nadim Karam personally, I probably was the first person to interview him when he did his magnificent exhibition at the Sursock Museum T-Races BSC4791 in 1994, and I was actually invited to the opening of his in Daroun (because he lives 5 minutes way from my house).
The reason I am disclosing this is because of "the gesture" (entitled in Arabic "al mared" or the giant) the statue that has been erected from steel and metal debris from companies who donated them to the Karam atelier to build the structure. Everyone is up in arms about it. Really, from all angles - it is ugly, it is political, it was unveiled on August 4th the one-year date of the tragic event, it was erected when there is still no one accountable for the loss of so many lives and so many people injured without even factoring the people who lost their homes and livelihoods.
Karam was very clear that no official or governmental sponsorship was involved in making "the gesture", it was his donation to a wounded city. And honestly, esthetics is a very variable and personal thing. When Karam brought his iron wrought sculptures for his first exhibition, no one was there for the esthetics of it - but I still have to find anyone capable of using space like he did. One sculpture was actually on the top of the building next to the museum (beat that if you can). 
Take the for example. Even Karam himself said it was a space with no definite function - if you find one, please do tell me what it is. And yes, for all its intricacies exudes emotions. With its stairs, pseudo-labyrinths, its openings onto landscaped surfaces, inconvenient passages and inner spaces for Zen gardens. That space moves you.
But if I go back to "the gesture", I think - esthetics or lack of it, grandiose or not, recycled materials or new ones - perhaps it is the timing that sort of bothers me. It reminds me of late PM Rafic Hariri when he allowed the families of people who were kidnapped or disappeared during the war to declare them dead in order for them to be able to tackle the inheritance related to these people, not understanding that the families of such people wanted "closure" above all - not tackling said inheritance.
Remember, the port is still a crime scene, no one was declared guilty over what happened, actually we still do not understand exactly what happened. And for this, the wound is still open.
Maybe in a few years, we would appreciate "the gesture" - but right now we are still bleeding.