documenta doldrums

A letter from the documenta 14 team, following the attacks in Beirut on November 12 and Paris on November 13, 2015

Beirut, 15.11.2015

We arrived in Beirut last Thursday morning, November 12. On that day, two blasts hit the southern suburb of the city, leaving 43 people dead and 239 wounded. On Friday, November 13, a series of coordinated attacks at six different locations in the center of the city shook Paris. As of today, November 15, 129 people have been confirmed dead and 352 are wounded, nearly one hundred of them in critical condition.

We came to Beirut to participate in Home Works 7, A Forum on Cultural Practices, at Ashkal Alwan, The Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts (in existence since 1993), a constellation of exhibitions, public programs, and collateral events, bringing together a number of outstanding artists and thinkers coming from the Middle East as well as from the outside of the region.

Confronted with what seemed unspeakable at first—confronted with death—we have realized, while listening to talks and seeing practitioners from various fields perform at Ashkal Alwan, how important it is not to fall silent. We thought and felt it should be possible to make the many voices we heard in Home Works 7 also heard in documenta 14, one and a half years ahead of its scheduled openings in Athens and Kassel. On this website, we will publish statements, notes, fragments, and quotes solicited from those we meet—in Beirut, and soon in Algiers and elsewhere—since many members of our team find themselves at different places around the globe at this point in time, as the reality around us has been going through profound changes.]

The day after the Beirut attacks, the people from documenta, with whom I interacted, seemed quite ok. However, the day after (the day when Paris happened) they definitely seemed shook up; they seemed a bit lost, as if the North had become nothing more than just a dream. It is somewhat ironic, considering they had chosen a Greek magazine called ‘South as a State of Mind’ to be their official organ.

I suppose suppose ‘South as a State of Mind’ could very well be a derogatory expression, a ‘Triste Trope?’ In any case, since Lebanon as a State of Mind was launched in 2010 —two years before Marina Fokidis launched her magazine— and seeing that documenta14 chose it  officially speak for them, things have come full circle, and warrant that one should explore the inherent contradictions in showing (art) in Kassel, or elsewhere, while still getting money from here and there, as if there’s some kind of inverse correlation between artistic production and arms manufacturing and dealing, for example.

An endeavor such as this one, might not amount to much, but at least there would be some dcouments about some things documenta says and does./////



What t h e s t a t e o f m i n d is about

To Venice and Back… Again – Georges H. Rabbath from Sharjah Art Foundation on Vimeo.

March Meeting 2011

Ashkal Alwane 2012

l e t t e r f o r a n o t h e r

Dear Jad,

As I am writing these line I realize that others who would eventually read this letter would relate to the symbolic meaning to your first name.

As Akram’s ‘Letter’ is bound to represent this country at this year’s Venice Biennial, I cannot help but retrace the legacy that in my mind, might have contributed to making such a project come to light for Venice, now that the artist’s gallery marketing machine, and the Biennale’s media monster have always already alienated the artist’s work.

Next to such alienation, and hopefully working against it, is the overarching project of another artist that could have been launched back in 2004, by a letter nonetheless; one sent by both artists’ Gallerist to one Lebanese minister of Culture, and that itself became art in 2008.

{Walid Raad, “Appendix XVIII: Plates 16-18: A National Pavilion (2005)(Plate 16)”, 2008, 164 x 131,5 cm (framed), Archival Inkjet Prints}

In 2010, two other letters were sent to a makeshift committee trying to make it to Venice again, in 2011.

One letter signed by one; one of refusal to participate and urging said people to refuse the role they took upon themselves to fulfill; and one standing for acceptance, and urging for the people making the committee to accept their role, and offering within the letter the project to post letters on people’s doors. 

Looking back (to a discussion I had with the Artist, some months ago, before the announcement of his participation in Venice) and looking forward (to what can be done with a letter most probably dead on arrival, like a ‘lettre morte’ with opened in a place like Venice), and looking outside (as Joana Hadjithomas, who was the witness to the discussion with the artist, was going by the project space’s bay window), there is, in all evidence, room for future letters that will not have to be written by artists (an not to refusing people), but most definitely by people to refusing artists; artists who would refuse to go on being artists.

As I was asking Joana  «how come you end up exhibiting in Downtown Beirut after a movie such as your ‘Pink House’?» (and getting an answer along the lines: ‘one cannot keep fighting the same ennemy’; probably meaning ‘an enemy one cannot defeat’), in comes Akram, followed by Jalal  (a tale for another letter) and after some small talk, a question about participation in dOCUMENTA13 prompts a clear disapproval towards «parachuting people in Kaboul, and then flying them out again, as if they weren’t even there to begin with», and a growing desire to ‘give up on art’; a desire’s satisfaction that was to be put off to at least a year from then, as the artist quickly added, and was to be subsequently explained explained, since the artist had most definitely, already accepted Venice.

A decision to stop being an artist cannot be possible, or actual by the ‘artist’ himself as it would be taken by someone whose state is not of his own doing. This simply means that his undoing has to be by the hands of others. 

We should be those others. 

G. H. Beirut, May 2013

from G. H. Rabbath (Beirut & Venice)

Online Intervention in Creative Time’s Summit Venice, 2015


A Spectator’s Investigation

A Spectator's Investigation close up


On November 28, 6-9PM the exhibition ‘Art/World/Disaster’ will open, with a work by G.H. Rabbath in direct reference to Ai Weiwei’s ‘Citizen’s Investigation’ called ‘A Spectator’s Investigation’ and based on my ongoing project with which many of the ‘cultural workers’ in Beirut interacted or related to and subsequently became part of its ongoing narrative.

To quote Anton Vidokle: “It seems to me that art resides within and in between subjects” (2011, 2013). The posit is that art does more than reside, and is more of a resident program in one’s mind than just a simple idea as one would tend to think.

Here’s the Facebook event.


WalkSpace:Beirut-Venice in Photographs

Documentation of two derives which took place in Venice on the 2nd & 3rd June 2011 as part of the WalkSpace project.

WalkSpace: Beirut-Venice live feeds on Bambuser

WalkSpace 12pm Venice

The next WalkSpace takes place in Venice today the 3rd at 12pm starting from Campo Santa Maria Formosa.

Join us or follow us on latitude and twitter @allegora and bambuser broadcasting live at,+30122+Venice,+Italy&sll=45.437373,12.341138

WalkSpace today 12pm

WalkSpace:Beirut-Venice is today starting 12pm from San Marco in Venice. All welcome meet in front of the cathedral follow us at @allegora on bambuser at

WalkSpace:Beirut-Venice Live Broadcasts

During WalkSpace we will be broadcasting the event as it happens using Bambuser for video, Google latitude for locations and with geotagged tweets. We invite those not in Venice or Beirut to follow us virtually with the following services.

Latitude: We will be broadcasting out location in real time during the event using Google Latitude. To track the event first sign up for Latitude and send a request to share location to allegora.venice[AT], or alternatively email allegora.venice[AT] and we will share our location with you. You do not need to share your location to follow us.

Bambuser: To view our live video feed simply visit

Twitter: Follow us on twitter @allegora. We will tweet our progress and take instructions via direct message.