“This is where they belong; this is where they have a message, a purpose for being here,”shared Beirut-based multimedia artist Katya Traboulsi speaking at the debut of her pop-up installation, Perpetual Identities at the new Middle East Institute’s Art Gallery in Dupont Circle last weekend.
“I wanted to talk about the whole of humanity, and I didn’t want to separate the Middle East from the World, because if the Middle East is sick, we all are sick. If something happens in the United States, we are all connected and cannot be separated. And it’s time that we should acknowledge — really deeply — that we are all connected.”
Traboulsi’s work, a series of 21 (of 46) hand-crafted replicas of bombshells used in the Lebanese civil war,evokes a lot of emotion. Each is adorned with iconography and design associated with the artistic tradition of a different country. “It was elaborate process, having the bombs made,” Traboulsi explained. “I was working with local artisans to have the soul of the culture represented.. They have their own life, their own language, they are not mine, they are like individuals.”
DC has many art galleries, but MEI’s is a unique platform, dedicated to exhibiting art solely from the Middle East and North Africa, which will showcase up to five exhibitions annually with established (like Traboulsi) and emerging artists from the Middle Eastern region. According to MEI, the gallery also “promotes the voices of the region’s artists as actors of social change.”
Says Traboulsi: “Perpetual Identities was born 6 years ago after the culmination of all of these years, and when the Syrian War started again. There is no positive end result [of the war], there is only failure, so the bombs we are talking about, it is a peace project that reminded me of my war. When I came up with the idea of the project and used a historical research tool to come up with it, I thought how am I going to do this? It was like a Mission Impossible, but for me nothing is impossible… and now I have formed these ‘bombs’ into objects of peace and humanity to be a witness of my time and participate in telling the story of my generation.”
Perpetual Identities is on view through November 22, 2019. MEI’s non-commercial gallery is open to the public on weekdays from 10 am – 5pm and until 8 pm on the first Friday of every month (Dupont First Fridays).