In 1975, my family and I fled Beirut as the civil war raged. I remember driving down the highway connecting the city to the airport at ungodly speeds to avoid sniper fire. That deserted stretch of uninterrupted road is vivid in my memory: it represents a disruption of place, family and history. As the war tore apart the country, it also drove my parents to divorce. A war, a physical displacement, cascading into a familial one, into a personal one. Forty years on, their effects only deepen and compound.
Our history has a pattern. A generation earlier, my grandparents were driven out of their homeland by the Armenian Genocide: their displacement accompanied the near destruction of their whole nation. Generation after generation, disruption upon disruption.
A few years ago I returned to Beirut to photograph. Despite the 40-year gap, my family’s presence and the embedded history of our lives in that space kept encroaching on my imagination. Everywhere I looked, I saw what used to be. And my work morphed into speculative constructions and re-constructions: The Beirut Mural Project.
The Beirut Mural Project is a narrative of disrupted history and reconstructed memory, in a public but internal space. It is simultaneously a disruption of the fabric of the present-day and its completion: a space-time narrative that begins in my childhood imagination in Beirut and meanders to the present. Family photos, idyllic landscapes, postcards from Beirut’s glory days and war-destroyed buildings (in color) become real and imaginary murals in current-day photographs (in black and white) from Beirut and Lebanon. The murals question the arc of time and history that connects seemingly linear narratives. They query historical disruption and dare to imagine a process that undoes it: a process that is at once disrupted and contiguous.