Who are the contemporary Lebanese artists? The preparation of a web-documentary about the young art scene in Lebanon is under way, with its companion blog, Libalel [fr], introducing the artists, like video producer Ziad Antar.
Ziad Antar was born in 1978 in Saïda, Lebanon and today works in both Saïda and Paris. Initially he assisted several video producers and directors in Lebanon (Akram Zaatari among others), and spent a lot of time with the Arab Image Foundation in Beirut (in English) where he met the artist Jean-Luc Moulène. In 2003, he was artist-in-residence at the Pavillon du Palais de Tokyo in Paris and took the research program, La Seine, at the ENSBA (Fine Arts). He has exhibited at a number of venues including the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the Biennale of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates and the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
The Libalel blog [fr] was interested in Ziad Antar's approach :
His work is based on this conviction: the image is an idea. For him, it’s not about searching for a way to transform ideas into images; the video is the subject of the idea. Ziad Antar says he has “no specific theme, [his] principal concern is the video as a medium”. He has developed a very particular way of working, using self-imposed constraints: “I set up restrictions to transform very simple things into videos.” The restrictions are derived from the technical field of video and photography – a static shot, a sequence shot, no editing. They produce a point of view, a reflection, an image, an idea. The camera work and the act of filming are more important than the subject.
One of his first videos, TOKYO TONIGHT, produced in 2003, illustrates this approach:
A strict methodological framework was arranged beforehand: a maximum duration of three minutes, little or no camera movement, only one sequence, sometimes only one shot. Another constraint was that of the title which comes from the residencies in Japan in which he participated that year. In the style of a road-movie set in a pastoral landscape in southern Lebanon, he invites us to three stops, three meetings with shepherds addressing us with the single word “Tokyo”, that is, three sequences placed end to end.
Music has an important role in the work of a video producer. In all Ziad Antar’s videos he uses music in the form of a song or repetition of sounds, and sometimes he tries to be aware of the ‘image’ of the music. This can be seen in the video Turkish March (2006) where Mozart’s famous composition is played on a stringless piano, where the sound of fingers hitting the keys is like a military march.
The video Wa (2004) presents his niece and nephew performing a song they composed.
In videos of a few seconds each, sometimes in only one sequence, he captures the small things of life, always with the same objective: to question the language of video. In the video Mdardara (2007), a lentil dish filmed in Super 8, the artist shows what hard times he lived through during the war of 2006. He tells us that in the besieged zones people cooked huge dishes of lentils and rice “that provide energy and are simple to make”. In SafeSound (2006) also, he filmed the daily life of a Lebanese family shaken by the war.
Two links to interviews with the artist and his photo gallery:
Audio interview [fr] with the video producer at his exhibition in “Où” gallery in Marseille.
Interview in Zenith Magazine, an online magazine dealing with art and culture in the Arab world.
And his photos.