Visual art curator

NOT ME!

Added on by Angela Serino.

Text about Mounira Al Solh’s work, published in the catalogue “Catalyst” (2006)

Rawane's Song fascinates. It captures our attention by freshly and intelligently investigating concepts in contemporary discourse through analyzing and questioning the artist's own cultural reference points. Mounira compels viewers with two effective techniques. She uses the intimate form of a story told in the first person, diary-like. And for the entirety of the video, she pursues a seductive visual motive: two pointy red shoes, objects of conventional femininity with connotations of frivolity. These red shoes, which may be interpreted as the artist's alter ego, provide the critical distance necessary to be able to articulate issues of personal identity, in unrestricted and experimental ways. In its primary stage, this identity manifests itself as a negation. But contextualized within Mounira's own cultural background and all its accompanying beliefs and customs, it may actually be understood as an act of self-realization. As text from Rawane's Song reads: I have nothing to say about the war; don't feel that I'm typical Lebanese; nor typical Arab; have nothing to do with the Palestinian cause; know almost nothing about politics. The whole narrative, which is an attempt to designate new relations between the artist's aspirations and personal wishes within her provenance, as well as the predominant values of her culture, is delivered with a pungent sense of irony.

Overall, it also shows Mounira's strong capacity for self-reflexivity and refined investigative abilities. Such qualities manifest themselves in extraordinary, original ways throughout the development of the narration, sparking a push-pull dynamic between the video and the viewer. This pushing and pulling is what makes Mounira so captivating. She speaks to the public's presence of mind, referring in her text to urgent current issues such as war, culture clashes and religious diversities. And yet, she simultaneously comments on the very predictability of the public's expectations through describing her many failed attempts to make an art piece about the local war. Her point is well taken, for example, when she lures viewers to believe her fabricated war documentary's success in the international film festival circuit. In describing these awkwardly executed projects to perform as a typical Lebanese artist, Mounira is pointing to us, the public, as testimony to her failure to live up to such an expectation. The artist implicates our own socialized thoughts and behaviors, while provoking in us the urge to distance ourselves from convention and habit. (We are almost inclined to utter aloud, "Not me! I don't think like that.") Still Mounira's critical commentary takes the form of a soft, seemingly inadvertent oscillation. It constantly goes back and forth, between the private and the public, between the specific and the universal, between models of reading and viewing, between Mounira, herself, and us. It is here, in the in-between, where the greater value of Rawane's Song lies.

Angela Serino