Of Other Worlds That Are on This One / One Hundred Thousand Solitudes

2014  / 2012-2014
Tony Chakar

Tony Chakar belongs to a generation of Lebanese artists and intellectuals whose most pressing concerns are the Lebanese war and post-war, and, in his particular case, how this past reappears in the present to define a catastrophic space-time. Memory as a performative practice is activated in his work by means of images and texts culled from varying sources, ranging from personal narratives to literary, mythological and biblical references. For him, text-images are the manifestation of the ghosts of the past (‘memory’) in our world, in the same way that the old Christian icons were the manifestation of the holy in the world of the profane.

On Other Worlds That Are on This One is made up of images taken by Chakar with his mobile phone. An architect by training, Chakar makes photographs that do not usually contain people, although the odd one sometimes makes their way into his images. When processing them on his computer, a facial recognition programme is immediately activated, and sometimes it is not faces that the software identifies, but other objects like car wheels or parts of a façade. It is this ‘technical failure’ that Chakar is interested in. He is certain that whenever we try to translate something from our physical world to a hyper-technological one, which is solely based on quantity, glitches like this are bound to happen – caesuras in technology’s hyper-rational infinite and homogeneous space-time continuum. In other times, mystics identified these moments as ‘moments of vision’, because they create a tear in our own world, giving an insight into another.

Images found in a technological context are also at the core of Chakar’s lecture-performance One Hundred Thousand Solitudes. This work examines images that came out of the Arab revolutions and from different Occupy movements around the world. The images are singularities, singular moments, that lead to the declaration of the coming of Messianic times – without a Messiah: the dead coming back to life, rivers turning into blood, people speaking in tongues, the last becoming first, the reversal of historical order, men turning into women and vice versa. These images were not witnessed firsthand, but through social media (mainly Facebook and YouTube). – NEM/tc