Distant Divides - East and West: Beirut to Berlin
Curatorial research project by Clementine Butler-Gallie
As part of a research residency at Mansion Beirut from September 2019.
Newspaper publication ‘Distant Divides’
Featuring work and words by Lotti Adaimi, Chaza Charafeddine, Mahmoud Dabdoub, Martin Giesen, Elisabeth Kraus, Arthur Laidlaw, Ghassan Salhab, Siska
Design by Taïs Bean
From the 1960s to the 1980s, an exchange between Germany and many Middle Eastern states was established. This exchange was formed of social, economic, technological, and cultural components, the latter of which led to many Middle Eastern artists practising in both the GDR and West Germany, with some remaining residents today.
Lebanon and Germany share a history of internal East and West divides. Beirut’s Green Line separated the Muslim and Christian communities during the country’s 15 years of civil war whilst the Berlin Wall divided the capital into two separate countries. As Germany reunified, Lebanon’s long war ceased. Three decades on, new paradigms of exchange have emerged as history reorientates itself.
The research East and West: Beirut to Berlin documents the artistic exchange between Lebanon and Germany from the periods 1960-1990 and 1990 to today. By taking two specific geopolitical periods, the project seeks to question the notion of exchange in and beyond a political vacuum: how can past cultural exchange between nations be compared and expanded upon? To what extent is artistic exchange in the context of migration a balanced process? How are independent experiences of division artistically shared?
The research has transformed into the curatorial project Distant Divides which will be presented in a series of presentations that look to evoke the form of a new archive. The first part of the project’s presentation is a publication in newspaper form. The newspaper was produced for October 2020 to mark 30 years since German Reunification (Oct 3, 1990) and the implementation of the Ta’if agreement in Lebanon, which is observed as the ending of the Civil War (Oct 13, 1990). The publication acts as a catalyst for reflection upon past points of division in both geographies as well as those divisions that still remain.
The project has received funding from the Stiftung Kunstfonds Neustart Kultur initiative to present the research in the form of an exhibition and symposium in 2021.