La Biennale di Venezia 57: Part IV - Lebanon Pavilion : “ŠamaŠ - Soleil Noir Soleil"
"La Biennale di Venezia 57. Three Pavilions from the Arsenale: Lost and Found"
Now through November 26th, 2017
Highlights from the 57th Venice Biennale
There is a universe of art to discover in Venice. Don’t have that six months to spend there to see it all, let alone, the sprawling Arsenale? Here, you will find a focused selection of the most pertinent national pavilions currently at the Arsenale.
Cohesive and quite surprising at times, it was the Lebanese pavilion that, literally, ‘spoke’ to me. “Šamaš: Soleil Noir Soleil,” a multimedia installation by artist Zad Moultaka and curated by Emmanuel Daydé is a pavilion turned sanctuary that takes your breath away.
“ŠamaŠ,” a palindrome name, was the ancient Babylonian's god of the sun and justice (2nd millennium BC). Spoken words in various languages (Arab, French, English) popping out of a stereophonic “procession” of 32 Klipsch loud speakers in pure darkness sent chills up and down my spine. The mysterious chants were unknown to me, yet familiar. The repetitive hym is apparently a praise to the revered sun god. Perfectly timed and in harmony with 32 more Klipsch speakers from a centrepiece sculpture, a giant Rolls-Royce MK 209 bomber engine from the 1950s, in the invisible darkness of the large hall, was illuminated sporadically while reciting a “Lamentation for the ruin of UR (2000 BC)” by three children.” It’s flashing appearance was like a totem from a ritual.
“(…) children lying in their mother’s lap, are swept away by the waters like fish (…).”
At the rear of the space, spawning from the darkness on an 18 meter ginormous wall was an equally grand composition of sparkling metals. Way over 100,000 Lebanese coins plotted out to form a symbolic composition of
sorts, shining when momentarily illuminated. Above, yet another set of 32 speakers for “32 celestial voices: 12 seconds of a fighter plane slowed down 40 times” gives the same feeling of when you fall from great heights and the stomach tends to implode. It was as if I gasped for breath during a long drop. Boom! 96 speakers. Now that is some concert.
The installation of dark matter merged with the occasional bath of shining light on coin money invigorates the soul, but also displays the truth: a magical, if not haunting clarity on an ancient Arabic prophesy of the apocalypse, and the “Code d’Hammourabi” which was engraved on an ancient 4000 year old stele in what was Babylonia, defining a set of laws for human civilisation, revealed. At present, the installation is a brooding response to the toils of human conflict and the obsession with a treasury, leading to eventual darkness. I was quite moved by the poetic and hallucinating voices, the whispers and whims, the breathtaking sounds and the visually perplexing installation of shining coins, all combined to offer an accurate metaphor of warfare and survival, the struggle of money and humanity, or an ongoing battle of battles.
Upon departing the darkness and sporadic illumination of the vast hall, I exited this “Temple” of dark and light and entered the reality of the intense Venetian sun and felt hopeful once again that a peaceful time was coming in and around the world, but not going away steadfastly.