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Akram Zaatari at SALT

Amar Abou Zahr

The survey exhibition at SALT, set to continue until Feb. 15, 2015, across all three floors of the art space, presents elements from different volumes of work by Zaatari, an important figure in Beirut’s contemporary art scene.

Zaatari, who mainly works in film, video and photography, represented Lebanon at the Venice Biennale in 2013. He is a co-founder of the Arab Image Foundation, an artist-driven organization devoted to the research and study of photography in the region.

The floors of SALT Beyoğlu are divided thematically for this show, bringing together projects and works the artist created between the years 1998 and 2014, according to a press release SALT issued on Tuesday.

Since 1998, Zaatari has produced more than 40 videos, a dozen books and countless installations of photographic material, all pursuing a range of interconnected themes related to archaeological excavations, political resistance, the lives of former militants, the legacy of an exhausted left, the circulation of images in times of war and about letters that have been lost, found, buried, discovered or otherwise delayed in reaching their destinations.

Works on the third floor take into account body postures and gestures as language, and include Zaatari’s first video installation, “Another Resolution” (1998), an installation of 12 wall projections. Presented on the same floor is Zaatari’s most recent video, “Beirut Exploded Views” (2014), which tells of a post-apocalyptic city where people are able to communicate only through gestures and smart devices.

The second floor focuses on photographic archives comprising two major works, “On Photography, People and Modern Times” (2010), a display of an extensive research on vernacular photography that led to the creation of the Arab Image Foundation’s original collection of photographs from the Middle East, and “28 Nights and A Poem” (2006-2014), a multimedia installation that considers a photographic studio as a site of an ongoing excavation, displaying photographs, films and video recordings made in the studio.

The first floor is dedicated to Zaatari’s work on the act of excavation as a metaphor for “concealing and revealing artifacts,” namely archaeology. Elements of the “Time Capsule,” produced for dOCUMENTA 13 (2012), create a framework for Zaatari’s inquiries into this field. The space opens with a display of Zaatari’s research on Ottoman statesman and founder of Turkey’s first museum Osman Hamdi Bey’s excavation in Saida in 1887. Zaatari’s research was initiated in 2014 as part of his “Boğaziçi Chronicles” residency at İstanbul’s Boğaziçi University, and later developed by SALT.

Zaatari’s 2013 work “Letter to a Refusing Pilot” is also screened in the Walk-in Cinema as part of the exhibition.