Le Balcon: Interrogating the Changing Picture

Building facade with curtains

Instagram / @DavidHabchy

"I put a picture up on a wall. Then I forget there is a wall . . . but in forgetting the wall, I forget the picture, too . . . Pictures efface walls. But walls kill pictures. So we need continually to be changing, either the wall or the picture, to be forever putting other pictures up on the walls, or else constantly moving the picture from one wall to another."

~Georges Perec, Espèces d'espaces/Species of Spaces (1974)

The East Sibley Exhibition Hallway rotating exhibition series presents Le Balcon (porch, or الشرفة in Arabic), a series of photographs and collages that expose the wall and revive the picture. The exhibition interrogates Beirut's saturated context in order to explore its embedded characteristics in the dynamic domestic and urban condition and scrutinize its most common — the balcony, billboard, and newspaper.

Throughout the Mediterranean city of Beirut, dense residential building developments obstruct dwellers' views of their coast and mountain landscape. Yet, the vertical exterior walls expose hidden portals. The vernacular balcony typology apportions the vertical reading of the city into smaller frames of continually changing pictures. Though the balcony extends outward beyond the apartment wall limits, it also recedes inward into the residence providing fleeting glimpses into the daily routines of thousands. A floating room above the Beirut street connects each home to brisk Mediterranean breezes, the wafting smells of freshly prepared meals, the clattering sounds of distant cars, and views of waving neighbors from nearby balconies. An internal-external vestibule, a communal yet individual allocation, a private existence on display.

On the Beirut street, your eye moves up lazily, wandering like our finger swipes through the Instagram interface scroll. Endlessly changing scenes of daily life amongst the balconies of Beirut are all at once reality and fiction, a living image that exemplifies the quintessential character in Beirut that it is constantly changing.

Le Balcon: الشرفة is curated by teaching associate Danny Salamoun (M.Arch. '14).

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