KHOS BOSH - BEIRUT
This past weekend I really enjoyed this very funky, kitsch exhibition by artist Hatty Pedder at Mojo Gallery in Dubai. She is full of contradictions. She is complex and confusing. Both charming and selfish. Consistently unpredictable she will lure you and repel you. Make you feel disillusioned and and then equally exhilarated. She can fill you with all manner of frustrations but never fails to envelop you in her unique embrace.
She is Beirut.
Home to a perplexing mix of Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims, Maronite Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Armenian Christians, Protestants and Druze, each trying to hold on to their individual identities as small groups of East Asians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Africans, Arabs, Europeans and North Americans float in the ever shifting layers in between.
Beirut is as complicated as it is vibrant. And it is at this intersection of complexity and chaos that British artist Hatty Pedder starts her journey of investigation, interrogation, and interpretation of a society endlessly wrestling with it's own identity. Or lack of. A question of identity that seems to be forever in a state of flux. Never quite able to truly form. A schizophrenic personality constantly suffering the consequences of historical internal divisions, on-going external manipulations and never ending hidden agendas. All mixed in with a large dose of rampant consumerism, kitsch, nostalgia, indifference and a 'everyman for himself' attitude. A fascinating and intriguing subject for an artist to explore and express.
Hatty's relationship with her subject evolved over time from one that was both intimidating and overwhelming to one that is spontaneous, easy going and appreciative. The show's title 'Khosh Bosh!' is a Lebanese slang phrase that is used to describe a relationship with out inhibitions or protocol and captures the spirit and unique tone of the exhibition perfectly.
Through the use of her unique multi-layered visual techniques, Hatty deconstructs and rebuilds distinctive and insightful narratives that attempt to expose moments and slices of life in this city full of stories.
The artist's investigative journey is instinctive, emotive and fresh. And given the use of her trademark vibrant colour palette, the body of work at first glance might seem bright and cheerful. But beneath the surface we encounter subtle and sometimes not so subtle references to an array of socio-cultural issues and contemporary conflicts that today define the mood and mindset in this coastal city. From it's obsession with plastic surgery, designer brands and religion to it's lawlessness, lethargy and ongoing lack of electricity.
Hatty's eclectic body of work attempts to penetrate the multi-layered dynamic that has made Beirut such an enigma for so long. She holds an interpretive mirror up to a city where fragmentation and contradiction form an unsettling foundation upon which it's inhabitants build their lives with a spirit that endures.
Beirut, a city belonging to everyone and nobody.
Photos below Leila Antakly