Lamia Joreige born 1972
Objects of War No.4 2006
Video, single–channel with audio, colour and subtitles, plus various objects
72 mins, overall display dimensions variable
Objects of War No.4 2006 is an installation that comprises a single–channel video and nine miscellaneous objects. The video is a collection of interviews conducted by Joreige concerning the thirty–day war that broke out in Southern Lebanon between Israel and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah in July 2006. Each of the nine 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 key, a plastic watch, a water spray can and a MiniDisc. 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.4 is the fourth work of a series with the same title that comprises a further three videos along with their respective objects. It is the only work in the series that addresses the war of 2006. The first three works focus on the Lebanese Civil War that lasted from 1975 to 1990. 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 wars in Lebanon 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, the artist Tarek Atoui chose a water spray bottle which he and his housemates used to water their plants. Tarek explains that before the war broke out he did not care about the plants but during this unstable period they came to be a symbol of hope; he used to think that ‘if the gardenia plant flowered again, it would bring with it peace’. His interview ends happily, explaining that in the last days of war, in the midst of peace talks, the gardenia plant began to flower. 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, has 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.