Between Two Battles: Rabih Mroué exhibits at Kunsthalle Mainz

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Between Two Battles: Rabih Mroué exhibits at Kunsthalle Mainz
Rabih Mroué: Duo for two missing persons, 2013. Duo for two missing persons, 2013. Video (Still), courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg/Beirut.

MAINZ.- The title of the exhibition, Between Two Battles, targets the pause, the (brief) intermission between two battles. It underlines the end of one clash while simultaneously announcing the next engagement, which will undubitably follow. There is no end in sight; the defining principle is strike and counterstrike. But for now we are "between," when peace reigns supreme in a moment of respite, inviting us to reflect.

Rabih Mroué is all too familiar with both conflict and ceasefire. Born in Lebanon in 1967, he lived through—and was highly aware of—the country’s civil war from 1975 to 1990. He experienced his own family members being threatened and even injured. These existential experiences have shaped his thinking and art up to the present day, with his works exploring political developments in Lebanon and the Middle East. Images of war and terror, personal experiences and their effect on the individual all remain recurrent themes. The resulting works are anything but documentary-like in style; he takes the facts he has gathered and develops complex tales, interweaving fictitious elements with real-life events and personal experiences. Shocking news reports, violent acts, grim pictures are paired with people’s descriptions, which in some cases are the stuff of legend, although related in a sober tone. In this manner he contrasts the solemnity of factual reports and images from the press, radio, television or internet with his own stories and interpretations of events, and spoken in his own language. Inordinately distrustful of the way incidents are represented in the media, he questions the truth content of such accounts, tracing how a country’s history is rewritten through scattered images and reports. At the same time he actively weaves together stories and the present day, using his works to spread his own personal viewpoint on various occurrences and developments.

Rabih Mroué has now become one of the most important contemporary Lebanese artists. With wide-ranging works that blend literature, theatre, performance and fine arts, he develops new and up-to-date ways of combining the various genres and their vocabularies. He questions the demarcation between theatre and art, the relationship between an artwork’s space and form, and how this work addresses the viewer. How and with which media (video, installation, performance) can the viewer be reached and drawn in to the subject matter? How can individuality unfold when life itself is in constant danger? How are the different realities interwoven? Rabih Mroué focuses on the political and cultural contexts of the ongoing conflicts, directing our attention both to the construction of identity and history, and the relevance of remembrance and forgetting. Thus he supports the complex—yet absolutely necessary—process of public perception, a process which directly influences the formation and character of the individual, society, politics, the economy, and art.

Curated by Stefanie Böttcher

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