Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Satisfaction, frustration and pride

BEIRUT: Nothing encourages artists to produce better work than competition. Last summer, for 34 days straight, two artists - one holed up in Achrafieh and the other holed up in Sin al-Fil - made drawing after drawing. When the power supply was on, they posted their pieces online, filling their respective blogs with diary-like accounts of living through the war in Lebanon. They each checked out the other’s work, as they each wondered how the other would respond to the day. Sometimes they felt the satisfaction of seeing a particularly trenchant piece of work. 

Down but not out: Artists refused to give up

The past year hasn’t been a great one for the art scene in Beirut. As of January, Lebanon was still reeling from the political assassinations and phantom bombings of 2005. Whatever momentum artists, curators and dealers built up over the next six months was trounced by the war with Israel that erupted in July. Numerous projects geared toward establishing a modern art museum or a contemporary art center in the Lebanese capital got shoved to the back burner, gallery exhibitions were cancelled and individual bodies of work had to be shelved by the artists who had been hoping to realize them. 

The Beirut blogs: People under siege tell their stories online

“I don’t want to be a war story … I just want to be me … not what is imposed on me … I don’t want to be another depressing story in your Inbox.” Beirut-based artist Zena al-Khalil began sending email updates to her friends, colleagues and contacts on July 13, the day Israel began bombing her city. Like Khalil, writer and curator Rasha Salti started organizing her thoughts into “siege notes.” Her missives, poignant, personal and rife with pointed political analysis, are now posted online at “Electronic Lebanon” - an offshoot of Electronic Intifada that launched within hours of Israel’s attack of Lebanon’s infrastructure and citizenry. Either way, they are collective memory in the instant, a readymade archive.