The Lebanese film-makers and artists Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (1969, Beirut) interweave thematic, conceptual and formal links through photographs, video installations, fictional films and documentaries. Self-taught, they became film-makers and artists through necessity in the wake of the Lebanese civil wars. Their very personal œuvre, based on their various encounters with people, has led them to explore the realm of the visible and of absence, leading to a fascinating back-and-forth between life and fiction. For more than fifteen years, their films and artworks, created using personal and political documents, develop narratives out of stories kept secret in the face of the prevailing history. They are interested in the emergence of the individual in societies made up of communities, and the difficulty of living in the present.
Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige’s work is constructed around the production of types of knowledge, the rewriting of history, construction of imaginaries, and also around contemporary modes of narration. They draw on their experience of their own country while going beyond its frontiers. The investigative process they adopt, together with their exploration of geographical and personal territory, endows their work with a particular aesthetic.
The relationship between the image and the various media the artists use raises questions about representation in the face of the endless flow of often spectacular images that surrounds us and structures us. Their works have attempted to show what exists without being immediately visible. They have thus worked a great deal on representations of latency to create their art and their film work. “Latency is the state of things that exist invisibly, but which can become visible at any time,” explain the artists. Their art works and their films also develop different strategies: evocation, the increasing scarcity and even elimination of the image, the creation of new icons, an exploration of narration and document.
Many of their films and installations involve the participation of the viewer, creating an encounter that stimulates a desire to think, to feel, to be moved, and to develop a critical relationship to the image. Their works reflect the complexity of situations, shifting the gaze and exploring both the fragmentation of the present-day world and contemporary issues surrounding the image. Recently, they explored a totally forgotten Lebanese spatial project, and developed an interest in the virtuality of the internet through swindles, spams and scams. They question the belief and the imaginary realms of corruption, embodying an alternative history of the contemporary world.
What stories can be transmitted when the thread of history is broken, when no visible trace of it remains? What representations should be produced in the face of the prevailing and restrictive imaginary worlds? Can the latter be challenged with images and poetry? “Two Suns in the Sunset” looks at major projects of their artistic and film output from the late 1990s to the present day, and presents two new works, including ISMYRNA, a film co-produced with the Jeu de Paume and the Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah. The Jeu de Paume’s exhibition explores their particular relationship with the image and with narrative, while revealing the different approaches and strategies they have used, as well as the different narratives and investigations that they have immersed themselves in.
This exhibition is being presented at the Sharjah Art Foundation in spring 2016, then, this summer, for the first time in Europe, at the Jeu de Paume, before travelling to the Haus der Kunst, Munich, and in 2017 to the IVAM in Valencia.
Hadjithomas and Joreige’s work has been shown in numerous museums, art centres and international biennales, as well as at monographic and group exhibitions. Major public and private collections have also acquired their works, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Sharjah Art Foundation in Sharjah and, in Paris, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Centre National des arts Plastiques and the Musée National d’Art Moderne – Centre Georges Pompidou.
They have taken part in a number of international events, including: le Festival d’Automne, the Festival d’Avignon, the Biennales of Istanbul, Lyon, Sharjah, Kochi Muziris (India), Gwangju (South Korea), the Triennale de Paris and the last Venice Biennale (2015).
Their monographic exhibition on internet scams “I Must First Apologize…” was first presented at the Villa Arson in Nice in 2014, then at H.O.M.E. in Manchester and at the MIT List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge (Massachusetts) in 2015. Their feature films have been selected for several international festivals, at which they have won numerous prizes. They have also had retrospectives at MoMA in New York, Tate Modern in London, the Harvard Film Archives and the Paris Cinéma, among others.