Torn Folded Curled is the title for my exhibition at Makan, the space associated with Plan BEY publishing house. The exhibition follows a process of artistic research at the Arab Image Foundation where I spent two weeks in June and reflects the haphazard ways institutional photographic collections exist in a limbo, in a phantasmic connection with history, chance and the everyday. The resulting books and multiples capture different photographic collections that are temporarily stored for preservation, whilst awaiting its full digitisation and cataloguing.
Based in Beirut’s Mar Mikhael, Makan used to be a residential space before its recent conversion into a project space. Relying on the domestic feeling of the site, we retrofitted the gallery into a furnished apartment thus integrating the photobook works within a site-specific installation. The staging of a narrative within an out-dated domestic interior invites the audience into a more intimist reading of the works located within the scenes evoked in the printed pages.
This effect is visible with ‘Super private,’ a series of photobook works sourced from the work of an amateur photographer known as RS. Photographing in the early 1950s in Beirut, he left his work in film rolls that were never developed during his lifetime and are shown here publically for the first time. The ‘real-life’ apartment setting provides the ideal backdrop for a visual script that emerges in the staged scenes for the camera where his friends and lovers feature as characters in a photo-roman noir.
Torn curled folded is a generic term used by the Arab Image Foundation to categorise heavily damaged photographs that require special care in storage and preservation. It is also the title for another work in the exhibition, that is an investigation of press photographs and papers rescued from the offices of political newspaper Al Yom. Founded by Afif El Tibi in 1937, considered the father of Lebanese journalism, the newspaper was attacked at the outbreak of war in 1975, and the journalists given half an hour to leave the office. The repository lay hidden until the editor’s death in 2005 when it was found outside his house. Heavily damaged, the materials are photographed as they were found: torn, curled and folded. The resulting publication is titled Today (torn folded curled) and the images are accompanied by sentences from the novel ‘A L’ Ombre d’ Une Ville’ (1993) by Elie-Pierre Sabagg, creating a photo-text that is a reflection on memory, photography and the city.