Beirut Caoutchouc | 2004-2006
Rubber mild out. 825 x 675 x 3 cm. Ed. 1/1 AP
‘Beirut Caoutchouc’ is a large map made of rubber incised with lines that precisely draw the city’s existing streets, squares and highways. The map is composed of sixty pieces, each one corresponding to Beirut’s districts according to municipal organization. When the artwork is exhibited, the sixty elements are assembled like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle on the floor and the public is allowed to walk on it. “The idea behind ‘Beirut Caoutchouc’ is to have a map somewhere in-between the paper map that we look at as spectators, and the real city that swallows us when we walk inside it. I wanted to make a city that one can see as a whole and participate in”, says the artist. (Marwan Rechmaoui, Metropolis, Beirut: Kaph Books, 2017, p. 81.) Moreover, the installation is an instrument to observe the geographical and social transformations that affected the city since the mid 19th century - demographic growth, wars, and environmental crises – emphasizing the resilience of its inhabitants.
Biography of the artist
Born in Beirut, Lebanon. 1964
Works and Lives in Beirut, Lebanon
Deriving inspiration from the geography and rich cultural history of Beirut, Rechmaoui's work often reflects themes of urbanization and contemporary social and behavioral demographics. He uses industrial materials such as concrete, rubber, tar and glass to create tactile works on a large scale.
His works have primarily focused on local landmarks, such as "Beirut Caoutchouc" (2004), a sprawling map of Beirut made of black rubber and embossed with precise details of roads and byways. Rechmaoui’s other major works include "Spectre" (2006), a reproduction of the modernist "Yacoubian Building", "A Monument for the Living" (2001), a large-scale architectural model of the derelict Burj Al Murr replicates a never completed, abandoned 1970s high-rise, which towers over downtown Beirut. In 2011, Rechmaoui debuted his UNRWA series, which included hand drawn maps on concrete, wood, and tin of Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, and a series of found objects exposing different cluster munitions collected after the 2006 war in Lebanon. Rechmaoui’s "Pillars" (2014-ongoing) keeps the theme of deconstruction /reconstruction with an installation of domestic objects – various materials collected from crumbled ruins of a residential buildinq - embedded in a concrete pillar: a basic structural element in urban architecture. Flowers, pillows, amonq other decorative items reflect the burden of the past, which is still prevalent in the postcolonial period. The proiect had its first public displav in the 2015 lstanbul Biennial.
Rechmaoui’s work has been shown in exhibitions in Lebanon and abroad, including the "Musée Granet", Aix-en-Provence, France (2013); "Serpentine Gallery", London, UK (2012); "Saatchi Gallery", London (2009); "Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Switzerland (2009); Musée d’art Contemporain de Nîmes, France (2008); and Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels", Belgium (2008). In 1998, he had a solo show at "Centre Culturel Français", Beirut. He has participated in the São Paulo Bienal, Brazil (2006), and the Sharjah Biennial, UAE (2005).
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