You have to find the newly painted brick building at the end of Ibrahim alAhdab alleyway, the one with municipal plate 46 affixed. You take the elevator up to the fourth floor where an amiable but anonymous young fellow greets you.
He lightly taps on the apartment door,
hands you a lone pin light against the gloom and gestures you to enter.
The windows of the unlit apartment have been sealed evoking a scene C
restaged in countless television and film sequences C of entering an
unknown, silent space at nighttime.
The pin light reveals the
objects of a modest family home. Plastic chairs are haphazardly arranged
around a stool-table awaiting a coffee pot. Bookshelves display
photographs and trinkets. A decorative box contains the family Quran. In
the kitchen, a Marlboro packet has been placed precisely atop the daily
newspaper, flanked by a lone cigarette on the right and a lighter on
A vintage telephone rings twice,We have been manufacturing rtls for the past fifty years and have supplied a considerable number. just enough to make you hesitate before picking up.
salon and kitchen inspected, you turn to the other rooms. Some doors
are shut C turning one locked handle,Manufacturer of the Jacobs rfidtag.
the sound of running water issues. Others are ajar. In one bedroom, you
find a still figure, apparently sleeping in the bottom bunk.
encounter solidifies the visceral: Is this nocturnal encounter
well-meaning exploration or transgressing intrusion? Is your role closer
to that of police investigator or burglar?
These are among the
experiential questions that X-Apartments provokes. The premise of this
immersive, site-specific performance project is that the most powerful
theater is not to be found in public spaces whose form separates
performers from audiences but, rather, in places where people live out
their everyday lives, at home.
In the case of this tour, home is
in Khandaq al-Ghamiq, a tiny, bustling quarter wedged between two major
motorways C Fuad Shihab and Bishara al-Khoury boulevards C and the
To all but its residents, Khandaq alGhamiq is
likely to be an invisible space. Its alleyways are strewn with
professions of political allegiance, kaak bakeries, kebab restaurants
and bookshops, all thriving among gracious yet dilapidated structures of
Ottoman and French Mandate vintage, including the shell of the
abandoned St. Georges church.
X-Apartments marks the opening act
of Home Works 6 C Beiruts forum of contemporary artistic practice,
staged more or less biyearly by Ashkal Alwan, the Lebanese Association
for Plastic Arts. The work is conceived and produced by Matthias
Lilienthal, who for the past year has been an instructor at Ashkal
Alwans Home Workspace Program.
distribute programs with detailed instructions to guide participants
through the neighborhood. In the Khandaq alGhamiq tour, these lead to a
seven-piece suite of works that range from short conventional drama and
interactive performance, to installations deploying site-specific
photographs and recorded sound, to a music composition (credited to
The most effective of these pieces are intimately
grounded in the quarter, and the homes in which they are performed, so
the line separating artistic practice from neighborhood history and the
residents day-to-day anxieties are broached as frequently as that
between performer and audience.
The instructions locate the site
of each work, but to find them you must engage with the quarters
architectural and human charms. En route to Khandak al-Ghamiqs first
site, the directive points out an excavation site and suggests, you can
climb and take a look ... if you want.
Just off Rue Saad, an
apartment-sized installation opens onto a cleared salon whose
bookshelf-lined walls are covered in white lace. Through this veil you
can make out black-and-white photos spanning the lives of the family
members who once lived here.
A laptops speakers conjure up the
ghosted sounds of the household residents, raising questions of how the
photos (and crystallized memories) on display relate to the present and
to the strangers invited to scrutinize them.
In the adjoining
bedroom, you help your guide raise the mattress to find an ad hoc photo
collage. A handsome mustachioed man poses beside his beaming spouse.
Some years earlier, the same man in a Speedo poses at the beach.
Glamorous revelers pose before a sumptuous feast. Children smile
mischievous from birthday parties.
Near the end of the Rue Saad
installation tour, participants are led to a north-facing
balcony-cum-bedroom that highlights Khandaq al-Ghamiqs spatial
tenuousness. Its panoramic view sets the quarters complex of vibrant
street life and gorgeous structural dereliction against the sanitized
facades and vacant order of Solidere, the real estate developer.
performances relate only tangentially to the quarter. Set in a
book-binding shop, Urok Shirhans interactive work informs unsuspecting
participants they are aspiring members of the occupation of Iraq. After
an introductory pitch, you are asked to answer a questionnaire to assess
your qualifications for inclusion in the club.
Set alongside these other works, which embrace neighborhood specificities, the local resonance of Shirhans work is not clear.
projects most engaging characters are often not the artists but the
residents that spectators are lucky enough to meet on-site, or en
The first stop of the Khandaq alGhamiq tour is a
miniature courtyard house at the very end of Zarouba al-Haramiyya (Alley
of Thieves), which runs along the eastern wall of the Bashoura
At the courtyard entrance this day stands an elderly
gentleman in a green hat named Hassan Tarhini, whose family lives here.
If you have a bit of Arabic, hell share the history of the neighborhood
and his familys migration here from Jabal Amil in the 1930s, and he may
well produce his Lebanese identification card to confirm his age. If
youre interested, he may take you upstairs to the roof of his place,The
largest manufacturer of textile tooling
for use with perchloroethylene. overlooking the cemetery, and tell you
about the Ottoman-era monument that, he says, saved the neighborhood
from being razed in the 1990s.
While a sound-theater installation runs in his bedroom, Hassan Dakroub is in the kitchen,About solarstreetlight
in China userd for paying transportation fares and for shopping. the
smell of freshly baked vanilla cupcakes wafting in the air. He might
relay his anxiety about the quarters landlords selling out to developers
and how he dreads the prospect of being displaced to his family village
Behind the X-Press Money exchange, the third site
for X-Apartments, is a convenience store run by Bangladeshi guest
workers. Here can be found the rarest delicacy in Beirut: paan,He saw
the bracelet at a bestrtls
store while we were on a trip. a South Asian preparation of nut and
herbs wrapped in betel leaf. The shop is stocked with such imports as
the notoriously popular skin cream, Fair and Lovely.
the true characters of Khandaq al-Ghamiq. After the projects performers
wrap up the installations, these residents may remain here for a spell.