Letter To A Refusing Pilot. Akram Zaatari rappresenta il Libano per questa edizione della Biennale con una nuova opera video. L'artista mescola memoria collettiva e individuale costruendo identita' complesse e sfaccettate.
Akram Zaatari (Artist):
“Different subjects, characters and figures that I have dealt with in my work in the past never leave me. They often reappear in my life and find their way to re-emerge in other later works. They totally inhabit my imagination and make me realize they turn my work into a theater of limitless possibilities. It’s a theater where strangers from different worlds find themselves on stage face-to-face.”
Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath (Curators):
“The material and physical delineations of a pavilion embody a desire to encapsulate an imagined “essence” within a carefully constructed shell. A pavilion looks like an interruption, where continuities in geography and time all of a sudden break in favor of that finality. When addressing this problem, curating a “national pavilion” can become an act of a revisionist nature, presenting a work that refuses to be ‘a terminal point of the creative process, but rather, a site of navigation, a portal and a generator of thought.’ Our decision to present this new work by Akram results from the fact that it operates along an axis of interrogation that sits within the same vein of criticality that we have in mind for the pavilion itself.”
APEAL – Association for the Promotion and Exhibition of the Arts in Lebanon (Commissioner):
“There is a natural synergy between Zaatari’s approach to the creative process and Bardaouil and Fellrath’s curatorial practice. They both work as archeologists in a sense. For his part, Akram weaves personal narratives and histories while collecting documents and objects to rewrite contested histories and explore the politics of making and circulating images. Sam and Till are always seeking to unpack the curatorial mechanisms, modes of visual display and literary representation by which the artist and the artwork are framed and evaluated through an ongoing excavation of art-historical narratives that can be positioned as alternative frameworks for the reconsideration of the contemporary moment of artistic production.
“There is an amazing story lying at the heart of what will be presented at Venice making it most suited
for the context of a national pavilion,” everybody concluded.
For bios of the artist, curator and commissioner and for further inquiries, please contact
John Diviney, firstname.lastname@example.org / T +971 4 446 6270
Calle della Tana
Calle della Tana 2169/f - Venezia
Letter to a Refusing Pilot
Curators: Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath
Commissioner: The Association for the Promotion and Exhibition of the Arts in Lebanon (APEAL)
Akram Zaatari will be presenting a major new work, titled Letter to a Refusing Pilot, in the Lebanese Pavilion at the 55th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, the exhibition marks the debut of Zaatari’s most aesthetically ambitious and politically nuanced project to date, and creates a dialogue between two works, a new 45-minute video and a looping 16mm film, in an immersive environment conceived as a stage awaiting an actor, or a cinema awaiting a spectator.
In the summer of 1982, a rumor made the rounds of a small city in South Lebanon, which was under Israeli occupation at the time. It was said that a fighter pilot in the Israeli air force had been ordered to bomb a target on the outskirts of Saida, but knowing the building was a school, he refused to destroy it. Instead of carrying out his commanders’ orders, the pilot veered off course and dropped his bombs in the sea. It was said that he knew the school because he had been a student there, because his family had lived in the city for generations, because he was born into Saida’s Jewish community before it disappeared. As a boy, Akram Zaatari grew up hearing ever more elaborate versions of this story, as his father had been the director of the school for twenty years. Decades later, Zaatari discovered it wasn’t a rumor. The pilot was real.
Pulling together all of the different strands of Zaatari’s practice for the first time in a single work, Letter to a Refusing Pilot reflects on the complexities, ambiguities, and consequences of refusal as a decisive and generative act. Taking as its title a nod to Albert Camus’ four-part epistolary essay “Letters to a German Friend,” the work not only extends Zaatari’s interest in excavated narratives and the circulation of images in times of war, it also raises crucial questions about national representation and perpetual crisis by reviving Camus’s plea: “I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice.”
Akram Zaatari is an artist whose work is tied to collecting and exploring photographic practices in the making of social codes and aesthetic forms. Regarding the present through a wealth of photographic records from the past, Zaatari co-founded the Beirut-based Arab Image Foundation in 1997, and he has been working on the extensive archive of Hashem el Madani’s Studio Shehrazade, in the Lebanese port city of Saida, since 1999. The author of more than 40 films and videos—including The End of Time (2013), Tomorrow Everything Will Be Alright (2010), Nature Morte (2008), In This House (2005), This Day (2003) and All Is Well on the Border (1997).
Zaatari investigates notions of desire, pursuit, resistance, memory, surveillance, the shifting nature of political borders and the production and circulation of images in times of war. His works have been featured in dOCUMENTA (13) (2012), the Istanbul Biennial (2011), and the Venice Biennale (2007), among others, and he has shown his films, videos, photographs and other documents in institutions such as the Centre Pompidou in Paris, Tate Modern in London, Kunstverein and Haus der Kunst in Munich, Le Magasin in Grenoble, MUSAC in Leon, MUAC in Mexico City and Videobrasil in Sao Paulo.
Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath
Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath co-founded Art Reoriented, a multi-disciplinary curatorial platform operating from Munich and New York in 2009. Their past and ongoing exhibition, research and publication projects include collaborations with several museums and cultural institutions such as MoMA in New York, Mathaf in Doha, INHA and IMA in Paris, IVAM in Valencia, the Gwangju Museum of Art and the Today Art Museum in Beijing.
Integral to Bardaouil and Fellrath’s practice is the critique of institutionalized exhibition structures. Through their work, they question the way artworks have been appropriated by reductionist narratives and politicized modes of representation. They excavate art historical materials for the purpose of repositioning them in the more dynamic framework of contemporary artistic production.
The Association for the Promotion and Exhibition of the Arts in Lebanon (APEAL)
+961 1 204525 email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
For press inquiries, please contact:
Amy de Leusse, Brunswick Arts T + 33 1 53968391 / email@example.com
Image: Akram Zaatari, Letter to a Refusing Pilot (still), 2013. Film and video installation. Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut.
Press conference: May 29, 2:30pm
Professional preview: May 29–31
Calle della Tana
(Arsenale) Calle della Tana 2169/f - Venezia