Good morning Beirut!

A week or so ago I was contacted about participating in an art projects called Portraits, by a London-based artist who goes by the name IMPREINT.

A simple but effective concept – take a picture holding a balloon. The person and the balloon are each imperfect and unique. But the gathered images together remind us that we are more the same than different.

That is my interpretation at least. IMPREINT’s own website is rather cryptic, allowing each viewer to interpret the art for oneself.

What do you see in this project? What do you see in my picture?

As part of a Good Morning location series, my participation was to be Beirut-specific, and I was asked to take my picture somewhere characteristic of the place. In my image you see Zaitunay Bay in Beirut – an ultra-sleek marina with a boardwalk and cafés.

Is it characteristic? As much as any other place in this city of many facets. I could have just as easily taken the picture on a street crowded with concrete apartment blocks or one lined with elegant French colonial buildings, in front of a mosque or a church, in the foothills of the mountains rather than the edge of the sea.

I chose Zaitunay Bay because, well, I happened to be there. But also because I felt it encapsulates a couple of Beirut’s many contradictions.

Just behind me there is a skyscraper being built, the cranes and construction powerful symbols of both the city’s wealth and its unflappable drive to go on. The skyscraper in turn is tucked behind the ruins of the St. George Hotel – once glamorous, but damaged first by snipers during Lebanon’s civil war, then gutted in 2005 when a car bomb exploded just in front, killing former prime minister Rafic Hariri.

Along the left edge of the image is the corner of the Phoenicia Hotel, another symbol of Beirut’s glamour – one that has retained its allure since Beirut’s heyday as the “Paris of the East” in the 1960s. Just outside the image, behind the Phoenicia, are the ruins of the notorious Holiday Inn, once a battleground for warring militias.

The turbulent history seems at odds with the rest of the image of ladies taking a morning walk along the sea, luxury yachts in the background. But the juxtaposition of luxury against need, peace against conflict, calm against chaos, is all part and parcel of Beirut.

So, characteristic? As much yes as no.

IMPREINT’s website includes a brief interview with the artist, a snippet of which I’ve included below:

DO YOU THINK ART COULD HAVE A SOCIAL IMPACT?

I: ART HAS TO HAVE A SOCIAL IMPACT.

WITH A PROTEST?

I: WITH A PROPOSAL.

In IMPREINT’s project I see a proposal for the joys of childhood. I see a proposal for recognizing the universality of humanity rather than an emphasis on our differences and divisions. What do you see?

*    *    *

Have your own interpretation of the project to share? Post your picture to IMPREINT’s Facebook page.

Advertisements