Beirut Lab: 1975(2020)

St. Georges Hotel, Beirut, 2019


Beirut Lab 1975(2020)
again, rubbed smooth, a moment in time__caesura

In [a] Gödel universe, it is provable that there exist closed timelike curves such that if you travel fast enough, you can, though always heading toward your local future, arrive in the past. These closed loops or circular paths have a more familiar name: time travel. But if it is possible in such worlds, as Gödel argues, to return to one’s past, then what was past never passed at all.


            Palle Yourgrau, A World without Time, 2004


When we look out into the world and ask, “Where is art,” we are really pondering, “When is art?” For contemporary space is reciprocally – and inextricably – bound up with historical time. Such that, art is always in transit; not only in its various spatial adaptations throughout history, where we encounter it, but in its temporal apparitions, at once past, present and future. Quantum mechanics has a name for this phenomenon: space-time.


The subject of Beirut Lab: 1975(2020) – a film installation at UC Irvine’s Room Gallery in Fall 2019 features contemporary film essays produced by artists living and working in Beirut, a site where time bends and curves, as in a Gödel universe.  Here, as elsewhere, historical events are what semioticians call a “sliding signifier,” an image-unit that floats between the past, present and future, then back again in one’s mind.  Counter-intuitively, Beirut is also a city where particular events function as a kind of collective caesura – an historical blank space within cultural consciousness. The most prominent of these events being the Lebanese Civil War, 1975-1991, which has (and continues) to provoke critically minded artists to engage in a type of hermeneutic aesthetics of past moments in time. For instance, artists of one generation, who were in primary school in the seventies, wrangle with screen memories of that moment, which can neither be completely remembered nor forgotten.  Alternately, a younger generation of artists attempts to untangle that which they never knew themselves but which they have inherited as a gap in Lebanon’s state sanctioned national history.  But, already, this generational schema is a bit too tidy.  For there are those artists in the region whose artwork critically investigate the more general question of memory, history and, therefore, temporality, by subtending the perspectival positions of the aforementioned generational lines. The film essays featured in Beirut Lab: 1975(2020), showcase all three such perspectives. 


Films by: Basma Alsharif, Panos Aprahamian, Mohamed Berro, Gregory Buchakjian & Valerie Cachard, Ali Cherri, Toni Geitani, Daniele Genadry, Amer Ghandour, Ahmad Ghossein, Ghassan Halwani, Mustapha Jundi, Nadim Mishlawi, Heather M. O'Brien, Raed and Rania Rafei, Walid Sadek, Ghassan Salhab, Mohamed Soueid, Rania Stephan, and Jalal Toufic.


Installation:  A film program of 30 films screened over five days a week, for ten weeks.  Each day’s grouping – an essay of film-essays – ponders the imbricated questions: When in Time is Beirut? Where in Beirut is Time? Beirut Lab: 1975(2020) furthers the investigation made by the exhibition, entitled again, rubbed smooth, a moment in time__caesura, mounted at the American University of Beirut, Spring 2019. (Website:




Juli Carson
Yassmeen Tukan
Room Gallery
Exhibition Dates: 
Oct 05, 2019 to Dec 14, 2019
Saturday, October 5, 2019 - 2:00pm to 5:00pm
Thursday, October 10, 2019 - 12:00pm

Visiting Artist Lecture Series (VALS): Heather M. O'Brien

Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) Colloq. Room (3201)

Friday, October 11, 2019 - 3:30pm

The place from which one speaks: A Conversation with Michelle Dizon & Heather M. O’Brien

Room Gallery


This dialogue will explore what it means to make image-based work about a place when the author is not understood to be from that place. How are understandings of “place” made and what subjective and historical registers urge artists to ground their practice in a politics of solidarity. Taking Dizon’s Gaza Before the Law (2018), shot in Los Angeles and Palestine, and O'Brien's film, dyad gaze (2019), shot in Beirut, Lebanon as starting points, the artists will discuss the privilege of mobility, decolonial strategies for documentation, the legacy of images of war and domesticity, and Trinh T. Minh-ha's idea of "speaking nearby." O'Brien was a student of Dizon's at CalArts from 2011-2013, in courses including "Visualities and the Alterglobal," "The Work of War in Times of Art," and "Feminism in Translation."

Michelle Dizon is an artist, writer, filmmaker, and Associate Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California, Riverside. Her projects seize upon a freedom in time to assert languages, materialities, and knowledges that unravel the political projects of Western modernity and that hold space for the intimate and complex exploration of life worlds that are silenced by power and written out of history.  Dizon works in the contexts of cultural institutions and grassroots organizing. She has lectured and exhibited across the Americas, Europe, and Asia in significant cultural and educational institutions such as the Center for Feminist Studies in Zagreb, Croatia, School of Oriental and African Studies, London, UK, SalaSab, Bogota, Colombia, Caixaforum, Barcelona, Spain, Jeu de Paume, Paris, France, The Cooper Union, NYC, NY, Vargas Museum, Manila, Philippines, Para/Site Art Space, Hong Kong, China, the Gothenburg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, Gothenburg, Sweden, and the Singapore Biennial.  She has also founded and developed grassroots initiatives to build and nurture community such as at land's edge (2015-18) an autonomous pedagogical platform based in South and East Los Angeles and the Memory and Resistance Laboratory (2019- present) which partners with grassroots organization to create media grounded in social movements.  Dizon has received grants from the University of California Humanities Research Institute, the Human Rights Center, Art Matters, and the Fulbright Foundation.  She has been honored with a 2017-18 Master Artist Fellowship from the City of Los Angeles.  She earned an MFA in Art with a specialization in Interdisciplinary Studio from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a Ph.D. in Rhetoric with designated emphases in Film and Women, Gender, and Sexuality from the University of California, Berkeley.

Heather M. O’Brien is an artist and filmmaker living and working in Beirut, Lebanon. Her work aims to unravel the contradictions of capitalist desire within domestic space. She seeks to build encounters around issues that impact cultural imagination, from familial archives to the illusion of accurate memory. O’Brien received an MFA in Photography and Media from California Institute of the Arts Los Angeles, and was a fellow in the Creative Practices Program at the International Center of Photography, New York. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Fine Arts and Art History at the American University of Beirut, where she teaches courses in photography and film/video, with a focus on critical theory, studio practice, and history. Her work has been exhibited and presented in an array of educational institutions, museums, and conferences including Sursock Museum Lebanon, the New Media Society in Tehran, San Francisco Camerawork, the Society for Photographic Education Conference, Geffen Contemporary at MOCA Los Angeles, Beirut Art Center, Baxter Street at the Camera Club of New York, KW Institute For Contemporary Art Berlin, the Bronx River Art Center, Franklin Street Works, the Western Political Science Association Conference, the Center For Photography at Woodstock, and Parsons/The New School New York. O'Brien has been an organizer with Critical Resistance Los Angeles and was a founding member of the Los Angeles Tenants Union. She has been awarded residencies with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Marble House Project, Sommerakademie Paul Klee, and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. Her projects and writing have been featured in numerous publications including the New York Times, Conveyor Magazine, Hyperallergic, Roosevelt institute 2.0, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Currently, O’Brien is working on a new film in collaboration with Jonathan Takahashi, scheduled for release in Beirut in 2020.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019 - 9:00am

When is Beirut? Symposium

9am-1pm Humanities Gateway (HG 1010)
2pm-6pm Contemporary Arts Center (CAC 3201)

Speakers: Speakers include: Juli Carson (UCI), Noelle Buabbud (American University, Beirut), Sohail Daulatzai (UCI), Bryan Reynolds (UCI), Raed Rafei (director, "74 (The Reconstitution of a Struggle”)), Maya Mikdashi (Rutgers University), Michael Moshe Dahan (UCI), Stefania Pandolfo (UC Berkeley), Panos Aprahamian (director, “Yabandjo”, American University, Beirut), Mark Le Vine (UCI), Saree Makdisi (UCLA), Ussama Makdisi (UC Berkeley)

In collaboration with UCI Claire Trevor School of the Arts, the School of Humanities’ emphasis in Global Middle Eastern Studies and UCI’s Illuminations initiative, When is Beirut? Symposium is a one-day event organized concurrently with, and in response to, UC Irvine’s Fall 2019 Room Gallery film installation program Beirut Lab: 1975(2020). When is Beirut? Symposium will invite UC-wide theoreticians, emerging scholars, and film/video practitioners whose work and research engages with Lebanon to interrogate both the film essays and the theoretical propositions which subtend the works in the exhibition. When is Beirut? Symposium will furthermore invert the conventional model by which theoreticians discuss theories and artist/practitioners explicate artworks. In the symposium’s morning session, which will take place in the School of Humanities’ HG 1010, artists and film/video practitioners will be invited to challenge, and extend, the exhibition’s theoretical propositions.  In the afternoon session, which will take place adjacent to the Room Gallery in the University’s Contemporary Arts Center Colloquium facility (CAC 3201), theoreticians and scholars will be asked to engage with the works on view in the film installation. Through paper presentations and panel discussions, theoreticians and practitioners will meet to confront multiple, simultaneous and divergent perspectives on the political, theoretical, and aesthetic consequences of the Lebanese Civil War, 1975-1991.

Juli Carson and Yassmeen Tukan, Beirut Lab: 1975(2020), (UC Irvine: University Art Gallery, 2019).