Opening: 12 Feb. 2016, 7 pm
Welcome: Philipp Achammer, Minister for German Education, Culture, Integration
Giovanna Calvenzi will be present.
Exhibition: 13 Feb. – 2 Apr. 2016
Closing & talk with Giovanna Calvenzi and Giovanna Silva (Humboldt Books): 2 Apr. at 11 am
Portfolio review with Giovanna Calvenzi and Giovanna Silva: 2 Apr. at 1 pm (registration: email@example.com)
“I came to Beirut in 1991 to photograph the city centre, which had been maltreated in 15 long years of civil war (since 1975). It was not my aim to create a reportage on the ruins of the city, but rather to illustrate a ‘state of affairs’ that allowed space for my own free interpretation.
I have been photographing cities for many years, and I’m very familiar with the rites to approach the exploration of a cityscape. But a wounded, ravaged city requires a particular sensitivity; it needs special attention. You have to encounter it with compassion, but also respect. First, there is shock and pain in the face of the tragedy, then fear and the hesitation that precedes the ritual act of photographing, which requires considerateness and a sense of responsibility. Then something happens, maybe the city is listening, senses the hesitation, sends a message and calmly frees you from the feeling of anxiety, helps release the transfixed gaze. A metaphysical calm arises, a break after which you can act, observe, and take action.
In subsequent years I travelled to Beirut three more times to follow the rebuilding of the city centre. Today, with its new skyline, it seems to have been magically resurrected.
When I have the possibility to do so, I return numerous times to places that I have photographed. For me it is the most interesting and effective way to build a specific relationship, to be more strongly involved with reality. Returning creates a unique state of mind: it is like waiting for a longed-for rendezvous, a reawakening of memory of places, objects and persons, as if you are starting the engine of a car that has not been driven for a long time.
In Beirut there was even more to it. There were only a few years between my visits, but nonetheless each time it was like I was returning after an inconceivably long time, a time without time that contains a small piece of world history, the memory of a world that is submerged in the physical reality of a place. Today’s cityscape radically revolutionises the compact and coherent iconography of the old Beirut.
Though the urban landscape in the centre today perfectly reflects the old topography, and almost all historical buildings have been rebuilt true to the original with only minimal deviations, there are extensive vacant areas between this new ‘citadel’ and the sea.
In these areas, however, a new Beirut is arising at a dizzying speed: it is bound to be different and its explosive power can be clearly recognised in the numerous new buildings inspired by the neo-rationalist style located in the vicinity of two new urban monumental buildings: the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque at Martyrs’ Square and the Central Souks by Rafael Money.”
Milan, 14 March 2012