BEIRUT BY THE ARTIST
For over 20 years, Lebanese artist Marwan Rechmaoui has been creating monumental traces of Beirut’s corrupt structures – decaying modernist buildings, sectarian flags, colonial stones and a city map that perpetuates inequality and turmoil.
In 1994 he co-founded the Ashkal Alwan association to promote public art and research in postwar recovery. Now the Beirut-based art publisher Kaph Books has published a volume showcasing Rechmaoui’s work from 1996 to 2016, documenting each major project with an introductory note and preparatory sketches.
The book and its essays reveal Rechmaoui’s obsession with cities, from the early dwellings of the Arabs to Baudelaire’s flâneur and Le Corbusier’s utopia, and metropolises from New York to Istanbul. Cities, for the artist, offer the possibility of freedom and creativity, but also reflect the essential dynamics of power and culture – through architecture, gentrification or infrastructure, the interaction of public and private spaces, and the promise of free expression.
Rechmaoui’s counter-narratives reverse gentrification and political propaganda, memorializing the unspoken and the unspeakable, and warning the world about the lurking danger within urban environments. “I’m reminding new generations about the social structures and relationships that are affected by the war,” he says, “so that they don’t start fighting again.”