The Many Lives
and Deaths of
Conceived as a focused exploration of the fragility of one individual, The many lives and deaths of Louise Brunet starts with a search for a young silk weaver and revolutionary who went by the name of Louise Brunet and lived in Lyon in the early decades of the 19 th century. It quickly turns into a fictional retelling of the story of several individuals, whose struggles like those of Brunet, have been undermined and forgotten.
Blurring the boundaries between fact and fiction, with an approach that is akin to that of an investigator, this part of manifesto of fragility is imagined more like an artistic installation, rather than a curated exhibition. The wide plethora of artworks and archives, come together as parts of an unfinished puzzle. Though originating from disparate times and places, they each embody in tangible form, the existence of a person seeking to liberate themselves from the circumstances into which they were born. Alongside the works on display are several short stories that have been conceived as a literary extension of the exhibition’s fictional narrative. They serve as clues from a larger body of evidence through which traces of several Louise Brunets begin to appear. From a black Senegalese woman fleeing the colonial exhibition of Lyon in 1894, to a gay artist dying of Aids at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York in 1992, the turbulent lives of these people hover between reality and imagination. They serve as gateways into distinct forms of fragility and resistance as experienced through the lens of the body, race, gender, labor, desire, or colonial struggle. The many lives and deaths of Louise Brunet begin to emerge.
Beirut and the
The Paris of the Middle East. The Switzerland of the Arab World. A place where you can ski in the morning and go sailing in the afternoon. Perhaps more than any other city, Beirut has had its fair share of clichés and expectations: a city whose insatiable appetite for life, is matched only by the burden of its irreconcilable ambitions.
With 230 artworks by 34 artists, and more than 300 archival documents presented in five thematic sections, Beirut and the Golden Sixties introduces the breadth of artistic practices and political projects that thrived in Beirut from the 1950s to 1970s. Emerging from French mandatory rule (1920 – 1943), Beirut was ready for it’s close up. An influx of intellectuals and cultural practitioners from the Middle East and Arabic-speaking North Africa flowed into Beirut over the course of three decades marked by revolutions, coups and wars across the regions. Foreign capital flowed into the city; new commercial galleries, independent art spaces and museums flourished. Beirut was bursting at the seams, not only with people, but also with ideas. Yet beneath the surface of a golden age of prosperity, antagonisms festered before eventually exploding in a 15-year civil war.
Beirut and the Golden Sixties presents a crucial moment in modern history from the vantage point of an ongoing crisis, highlighting the entanglement of past and contemporary struggles. Beirut is a city that is, in and of itself, a manifesto of fragility. It continues to evoke both vulnerability and determination – or at least traces of it – and conjure forms of resistance, called forth by the urgency of the moment and the desire to not be forgotten.
A World of
The seeds for A world of endless promise are planted in the fertile terrain of conversations and gestures of empowerment that have been taking place in a period of great uncertainty. From the mortality of our bodies, exasperated by an ongoing pandemic, to the restlessness of our communities, strained by increasing civil unrest in the face of age-old injustices, our fragility is vividly felt. Whether in the bruised body of a protestor or the ashen skies over the earth’s inflamed surface, our awareness of our shared precariousness has rarely been more tangible or visible. Yet, in many unexpected ways, so is our resilience.
This part of manifesto of fragility brings 88 artists from 39 countries whose myriad of approaches to the focal theme of fragility represents varied understandings of our current state of anxiety, while proposing new ways of thinking about generative paths of resistance. In that sense, A world of endless promise is at once a bid for contemplation and a call for action: an invitation to harness the fragility of the underdogs and misfits of our rigged world and share the burden of pushing forward. Along with the contemporary works, of which many are specifically commissioned to respond to the historical and architectural contexts in which they are displayed, are creations from different periods and places. They impart enduring accounts of vulnerability and perseverance through the scars that they bare, and the accounts of turmoil they convey, as they draw attention to the indelible traces of time. In this confrontation between new and old we can witness the ebbs and flows of prosperity and decline that make up the cycles of our universal fragility. It is at the heart of this very divide that the promise of a changed world begins.