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This is not LebanonKünstlerhaus Mousonturm und Frankfurt LAB

This Is Not Lebanon: Festival for Visual Arts, Performance, Music and Talks

Within a short period of time, Lebanon has experienced a fourfold catastrophe: the revolution of October 2019 that came to a standstill, hyperinflation due to the free fall of the Lebanese lira on the currency markets, the explosion in the port of Beirut on 4 August 2020 and finally the pandemic. Against this background, "This is Not Lebanon" was initiated by the dramaturge Matthias Lilienthal, the Frankfurt LAB with the Künstlerhaus Mousonturm and the Ensemble Modern in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut Libanon to provide a platform for artists whose practices have been overshadowed by the many crises; "This Is Not Lebanon" gives artists a platform to contradict simplistic reporting on the situation in Lebanon and to develop differentiated perspectives on the country.

The three-week festival, which will take place in Frankfurt am Main from 26 August to 12 September 2021, is primarily an opportunity to discover the voice of an emerging generation of artists who either live in Lebanon or whose work is in some way connected to the country, and who draw from the fields of performance, visual arts, choreography and music.

The festival will open with a world premiere by Lawrence Abu Hamdan: an audiovisual essay exploring the relationship between territoriality and atmospheric violence. This will be followed by new productions by four other artists, which will be developed in Frankfurt during production residencies in the run-up to the festival:

Choreographer and trained architect Ghida Hachicho, together with four other performers, explores the behavior of groups and swarms – the performance negotiates questions about group formation processes, how and through what relationships between participants are created and what these can reveal about the individual in relation to the group.

Artist and filmmaker Marwa Arsanios elaborates the fourth chapter of her research, which takes an intersectional look at women's anti-colonial struggles for comprehensive social and political change. In this chapter, the artist addresses issues of heritage, ownership, property and value through a video installation.

Together with author Sanja Grozdanic, artist Bassem Saad explores various processes of the International Criminal Court and the incongruence of historical narratives and his own experiences – in his first performance, the artist questions the distribution of violence and desire.

In a performative intervention, the multidisciplinary artist Ali Eyal creates a space between his own history and fleeting memories. He expands these with fictional, artistic narratives and connects the public perception of the Iraq war with his personal experiences and their consequences. 

In addition to other works by artists such as Rabih Mroué, Maan Abu Taleb, Lily Abi Chahine, Noor Abed and Mark Lotfy, a discourse programme curated by Rabih Mroué entitled “We cannot determine what will make us surrender” will take place on the first weekend of the festival. The curator invites artists and authors to examine past and current events in Lebanon from different perspectives in lectures, talks and films. The title, based on a quote by a Lebanese activist published in a newspaper on the occasion of the first anniversary of the October protests, led the curator to wonder whether the sentence was meant as such or whether the activist was misunderstood by the journalist. It suggests that the revolutionaries will inevitably fail, but at the same time confirms that the moment of surrender has not yet come. Rabih Mroué calls us to endure this ambivalence and, together with his guests, creates a space for discussion and thinking about old and new questions, doubts, fears and unfinished ideas and thoughts. 

The Ensemble Modern has devised a music programme for the festival in several parts, providing commissions for both compositions and productions. One part is a collaboration with the composer Saed Haddad – another is a commission from the Lebanese composer and visual artist Zad Moultaka. Other Ensemble Modern co-operations are being developed with the pianist, composer and installation artist Cynthia Zaven and with the sound designer and film-maker Nour Sokhon. In addition, a collaboration is also planned between the jazz pianist Florian Weber with Rabih Lahoud, singer with the successful jazz band Masaa.

The festival in Frankfurt will be followed by a second iteration in Beirut, in October 2021, in collaboration with Ashkal Alwan​.

Matthias Lilienthal, the main curator of the festival, has developed the programme in close collaboration with his co-curators - Christine Tohmé, director of Ashkal Alwan, Rabih Mroué, performance and media artist, Anna Wagner, dramaturge and artistic co-director of Künstlerhaus Mousonturm and the members of the Ensemble Modern Jaan Bossier, Uwe Dierksen and Christian Hommel.

 “This Is Not Lebanon. Festival for Visual Arts, Performance, Music and Talks” is a cooperation project of the Frankfurt LAB with Künstlerhaus Mousonturm and Ensemble Modern in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut Lebanon, supported by the German Federal Cultural Foundation and Ensemble Modern Patronatsgesellschaft e.V. The discourse programme is supported by the Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung/bpb). The residencies within the framework of “This Is Not Lebanon. Festival for Visual Arts, Performance, Music and Talks” are part of "Frankfurt Moves!", a cooperation of the KfW Stiftung and the Frankfurt LAB to promote international emerging artists in the field of dance and performing arts.

Mousonturm Frankfurt LAB Ensemble Modern

Frankfurt-Beirut: A Sub-Chapter of This is Not Lebanon

Fankfurt-Beirut is a sub-chapter of This Is Not Lebanon. Festival for Visual Arts, Performance, Music and Talks, held between August and September 2021 in Frankfurt am Main, organized in cooperation with Ashkal Alwan, The Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts.