Objects of War No.3 2006 is an installation that comprises a single–channel video, shown either on a monitor or projected, and six miscellaneous objects. The video is a collection of interviews conducted by Joreige concerning the Lebanese Civil War which lasted from 1975 to 1990. Each of the six interviewees was asked by the artist to talk about an object that had some significance for them during the war. The objects chosen include items such as a radio, a candle, a perfume bottle and a drawing of the floor plan of a house. Although seemingly banal, each object holds very personal memories and associations for their owner. The objects are displayed alongside the video in the gallery. The interviews are recorded mainly in French and Arabic, with English subtitles.
Objects of War No.3 is the third work of a series with the same title that comprises a further three videos along with their respective objects. Unlike the first installation in the series (Tate T13247), the videos in the three later works are unedited and always shown in their entirety. The project as a whole examines the ways in which memory and trauma come to be embodied in material objects, sublimating the psychological affects of past conflict. In seeking to present an alternative history of the Lebanese Civil War to the one presented by the media, Joreige chose to record personal accounts of the conflict that would otherwise remain private. The conjunction of the personal and the political at a time of war is ironised in the title of the series: the term ‘objects of war’ usually refers to military machinery, weapons and ammunition, but in this instance describes everyday objects used by innocent civilians as sources of comfort during periods of crisis. For example, Bassam Kahwagi talks in the video about the National Panasonic Radio that was used by his father during bomb attacks. Because of the war, Bassam’s father, who was a successful businessman, lost his job and became a different person. For Bassam, the radio symbolised his father’s need to confirm his status in the household as the bringer of news from the outside world. Joreige has stated: ‘by seeking such personal stories, I give a voice to those that have been ignored, to the stories that have been concealed.’ (Joreige 2006, p.241.) The artist has also explained that ‘these testimonials, while helping to create a collective memory, also show the impossibility of telling a single history of this war’ (quoted from http://www.lamiajoreige.com/installations/installations_objects.php, accessed 10 January 2010). When displayed in the gallery the artist stipulates that two or more of the works in the series should be shown together, enabling the viewer to understand the process and longevity of the project.
Joreige’s work navigates the vicissitudes of memory via the material traces of history. The social and political realities of life in Beirut, the artist’s home city, have had a profound effect on her work, linking her to other Lebanese artists such as Walid Raad (born 1967), Marwan Rechmaoui (born 1964) and Akram Zaatari (born 1966), all of whom are represented in the Tate collection, and whose work similarly reflects upon the Lebanese Civil War and its aftermath. These artists were also among the first in the region to begin making video art, a development that makes Objects of War especially significant to the emergence of contemporary art in the Middle East.
Suzanne Cotter (ed.), Out of Beirut, exhibition catalogue, Modern Art Oxford 2006.
Lamia Joreige, ‘Object Lessons’, Artforum, vol.45, no.2, October 2006, p.241.