29th September – 14th December 2019
As soon as I walk into Parasol unit, I am welcomed by Rayyane Tabet’s The Sea Hates a Coward (2015), which represents the efforts made by the artist's family to flee Lebanon in 1987. I immediately notice that this exhibition, Tabet’s first solo show in the United Kingdom, would revolve around Lebanon and be based on his personal experiences and perspectives. The title of the exhibition, Rayyane Tabet: Encounters, represents the movement of an object or sculpture. Throughout this show, Tabet wants the viewer to understand his message about Lebanon, by taking sculptures and objects and presenting them in such a way that they reveal hidden messages.
“Steel Rings” (2013)
The exhibition takes place on two levels, with the ground floor consisting of seven pieces and the first floor of one large piece. All of these share the same theme of Lebanon, and political issues in relation to Tabet’s personal views and experiences. Parasol unit, despite its size limitations, clearly make a conscientious effort with the layout: it is well-spaced out to accommodate the audience, yet it does not compromise the pieces’ ability to convey powerful messages.
"Colosse Aux Pieds d’Argile" (2015)
The highlight of this installation seems to be Steel Rings (2013), which is featured in many of the exhibition's promotional publications, as well as the programme booklet given to visitors. The piece itself is a horizontal sculpture that is made out of rings, signifying the Trans-Arabian Pipeline (TAPLine)—this consequently holds a substantial amount of socio-political context. This particular piece conveys a very strong message—it represents a time of integration of the several countries within the region.
However, the piece I found the most compelling was Three Logos (2013). True to its name, this particular piece is composed of three American oil companies’ logos that eventually became normalised in many parts of the Middle East. This illustrates the juxtaposition of elements of American culture being placed in a region that may seem completely opposite due to economic, social and political reasons. Additionally, it also prompts a discussion on the current and past political environments regarding the two regions mentioned.
All images courtesy of Devi Safira
Overall, as an audience with no prior knowledge of the socio-political conditions of Lebanon, Tabet’s exhibition provided a perspective integrating both his personal ideas and historical context. Although this installation is not very large, I found that the number of artworks on display was perfect due to the venue’s capacity and layout restrictions. The pieces have prompted an internal discussion of topics regarding bilateral relations between nations, as well as politics and economics in general. This proves, particularly in my case, that this exhibit has done well in sending an integral message to the audience. If someone comes to this show with no prior knowledge of the topics presented, this exhibit might be an exciting starting point for digging into the context of the pieces shown.
Edited by Alexia McDonald, Head Digital Editor