Berlin, 28 January 2020 – In one of his recent comic book series, ‘Antoine’, Mazen Kerbaj recounts the events of the day the Lebanese civil war ‘officially’ started. The main characters are his parents, Antoine and Laure that frequented Beirut’s notorious Hamra street cafes. The outbreak causes the play that Antoine was just about to perform to be postponed indefinitely and for him and Laure to flee to the other side of the city, cutting through what later will be called the green line and nearly escaping death. The book cuts to scenes from the play, where Antoine’s character is engrossed in a heated existential exchange with The Arab Destiny. It is 1975, the year Mazen was born.
Kerbaj’s art deploys two tropes that are not uncommon in underground comics: auto-biography and politics. An amalgamation of the personal and the historical. However, it extends beyond the panels of comics, it settles in space and is performed through the political body of the artist. Mazen is not only a witness, but like his father, he is an actor.
This show, combining new and old work and put together in this formation for the first time, draws parallels in time, medium and space. The pieces are put in dialogue, where an idea hastily scribbled on a restaurant’s placemat can be seen continued or developed in a live drawing video. It is like entering a room with a legion of Mazen Kerbajs talking, drawing, arguing and drinking together. Each one of them is the record of a particular moment and a new place; on a spectrum of sobriety; in a varying tongue; and also rendered in a different medium. Kerbaj is always on the move, and movement is both a condition of his work, and its subject.
The central piece —carrying the name of the show— orbits around a drawing station, left as though the artist was just there or perhaps is about to get back to it at any moment. This insertion of the physical body or its trace, blurs the line between the artist and his image.
Mazen Kerbaj is a Lebanese comics author, visual artist and musician born in Beirut in 1975. He also works on selective illustration and design projects and has taught at the American University of Beirut. Kerbaj is the author of more than 15 books, and his short stories and drawings have been published in anthologies, newspapers and magazines. His paintings, drawings, videos, live performances and installations have been shown around the world. As a trumpet player Kerbaj is one of the initiators and key players of the Lebanese free improvisation and experimental music scene. In 2015, Kerbaj was the recipient of a DAAD one-year artist in residency in Berlin. Since his move to Berlin, Kerbaj has developed several new projects in different fields, such as ‘Borborygmus’ a theater play he co-wrote, ‘Synesthesia’, a concept for a live graphic score for an improvising ensemble and ‘Walls Will Fall’, a composition for 49 trumpets.
Hatem Imam is a visual artist and graphic designer. He holds a BFA in Graphic design from the American University of Beirut (AUB) and an MA in Fine Arts from the University of Creative Arts in Canterbury, UK. He is the co-founder and creative director of Studio Safar, co-founder of the design and visual culture magazine Journal Safar, a co-founder of Samandal comics and the artistic director of Annihaya record label. He has been teaching at the department of Architecture and Graphic Design at AUB since 2007. He started collaborating with Mazen Kerbaj in 2011. Imam translated Kerbaj’s seminal book ‘Beirut Won’t Cry’ (Snoubar Bayrout, 2016) to spoken Arabic. They also collaborated on many design projects mostly in the alternative music scene and namely on the identity and communication of Beirut’s Irtijal music festival.
Mazen Kerbaj invites X plus one
Music and visual arts are the two facets of Mazen Kerbaj’s work. Both practices influence each other a lot, and it seems very natural to present a series of concerts in this exhibition. In this series Kerbaj invites one of his close collaborators in Berlin, asking her/him to bring along another musician. The name of the second musician will remain unrevealed to Kerbaj and to the audience until the date of the show, where the three musicians will perform together for the first time.
Live Performances - Mazen Kerbaj invites
Ute Wassermann plus one
Thursday 19 March 2020, 19.00
Tony Buck plus one
Thursday 23 April 2020, 19.00
Andrew Lafkas plus one
Thursday 30 April 2020, 19.00
Information on the exhibition:
Ev Fischer, +49 (0)30 284491 57, ifa-galerie-berlin(at)ifa.de
Guido Jansen-Recken, +49 (0)30 284491 19, presse(at)ifa.de
ifa Gallery Berlin, Linienstraße 139/140, 10115 Berlin
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 14.00 - 18.00
Closed on mondays and bank holidays
An exhibition within the series ‚Untie to Tie‘ by ifa Gallery Berlin
ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) is Germany’s oldest intermediary organisation for international cultural relations, having celebrated its centenary in 2017. It promotes a peaceful and enriching coexistence between people and cultures worldwide. ifa supports artistic and cultural exchange in exhibition, dialogue and conference programmes, and it acts as a centre of excellence for international cultural relations. It is part of a global network and relies on sustainable, long-term partnerships.
It is supported by the Federal Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany, the state of Baden-Württemberg and its capital Stuttgart. www.ifa.de/en