49:00, orig formats Hi-8, VHS & 35mm orig., BetacamSP final, Lebanon/USA/Canada, 1992 (1994)
This tape is at the most fundamental level, a personal project; i) examining the use and production of images/representations of Lebanon and Beirut both in the West and in Lebanon itself, ii) recording the interactions and experiences while working in Lebanon, focusing on the undertaking of this representational process as a Lebanese and a westernized, foreign-born mediator with cultural connections and baggage of both the West and Lebanon and some of the disparities and disjunctions arising in each, and iii) situating the work between genres looking from the inside out at each and engaging critically at the assumptions imposed and thus broken in this site of complexity one’s identity is found and constructed in.
Over 200 hours of Hi-8, VHS and found film material was recorded and collected in Lebanon, during the year of 1992. This project tries to make some sense out of that material and the acquisition of it, sometimes directly and at other times a sideways glance at our skewed attempts to produce works, framing the relationships, sites, subjects, and the practical and conceptual issues engaged in.
One cannot hope with this project to elucidate the terms of Lebanon's existence (narrowly if at all explicated in the West) but only to provide some countenance, inquiry and provocation and with this a chance for responses to them to be determined within a more problematized field. - JS
“Beginning with a provocative mini-history of orientalist images of Beirut, postcard fantasies and surrogate names for the city, such as JEWEL OF THE EAST or CROSSROADS OF CIVILIZATION, the first portion of the tape points to the eye of orientalism as it has rendered 'exotic’ this ancient city. The tape then elaborates upon Beirut using various mediations: a single take of a which is framed for quite some time like a postcard, archival footage, passages through landscape and buildings. But while viewing these takes, an effective contrast is made to the visual "ideal" depicted in the postcards--instead of an azure strand, or some luxurious rendition of Beirut as capital, we see vacant lots, destruction, weeds emerging from discarded objects, torn posters, beachfronts and mazes of dwellings. A poetry of reality. After some time he interrupts this urbanism with a handheld postcard, juxtaposed against its exact likeness (in reality) of a perfect blue sky. A relationship is drawn between the space of the viewer, what is being viewed and the interlocutor of the documenting process. A critical rupture occurs. After this, we are taken through Beirut from the vantage point of a moving vehicle which effectively exacts a relationship between the viewer, the person with the camera, and the world outside the car window. We glimpse Beirut as a composition of multiple landscapes, the imagery functions as metaphor for the complex collaging, accumulations and layerings of his documentary process. They are notations which refer visually, ‘speaking’ to the complexity of Beirut”. - Molly Hankwitz
“Salloum’s This Is Not Beirut: (There Was and There Was Not) is a challenging and complex experimental videotape that examines the possibilities and limits of imaging Lebanese national space. Shot in 1992, in the wake of Lebanon’s unstable emergence from a seventeen year civil war, the tape investigates, among other things, the various determinants that constitute Beirut as the site of Lebanese national trauma, and it unpacks the producer’s position as a Lebanese descendant residing in the West, an image maker who is and is never only “a visitor, tourist, and guide” in Lebanon..”
- Walid Ra’ad
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