Lebanese multimedia artist Rabih Mroué tackles his home country’s civil war in HAU retrospective Outside the Image Inside Us on Mar 30-Apr 3.
The Lebanese Civil War has been on Mroué’s mind for the better part of the last three decades. Fifteen years of violent conflict between a handful of factions makes for a confusing subject: how do you make sense of the over 150,000 lives lost?
And so Mroué uses all the tools at his disposal to give these experiences a narrative shape – performance, writing, video, visual art, philosophy – with an oblique approach that results in stunning imagery. His brother’s inability to process language after a shelling injury becomes a metaphor for the failure of representation in Riding on a Cloud (Apr 1, 20:30; Apr 3, 19:00, HAU1).
In 33RPM and a few seconds, Mroué and Lina Majdalanie, a frequent collaborator, investigate the suicide note of a young Lebanese artist who insisted that he took his own life on personal rather than political grounds (Apr 3, 17:00, 21:00, HAU3). In the performance, though, the protagonist never appears, a black hole at the centre of a storm of media attention, collaged in films and projections.
The works are filled with paradoxes like this: between presence and absence, fact and fiction, and so to see them is to dwell in a place of uncertainty and confusion. But not knowing, or approaching a situation from many sides, might form the core of an anti-war ethos for Mroué. As a retrospective, Outside the Image Inside Us shows that keeping the loose ends untied and the questions open is what Mroué’s career has been all about.
OUTSIDE THE IMAGE INSIDE US Mar 30- Apr 3 | HAU1, HAU2, HAU3, Kreuzberg, full programme at hebbel-am-ufer.de