Conversation Pieces

Conversation Pieces - a Suspended Spaces Proposal

Exhibition from November 6 to December 20, 2013

On the invitation of Denis Briand and Marion Hohlfeldt

Galerie Art & Essai, Rennes            

Basma Alsharif (Palestine), Marwa Arsanios (Lebanon),

François Bellenger (France), Yasmine Eid-Sabbagh (Palestine),

Maïder Fortuné (France), Hatem Imam (Lebanon), Lamia Joreige (Lebanon),

Valérie Jouve (France), Ghassan Maasri (Lebanon), Mira Sanders (Belgium)

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The exhibition "Conversation Pieces", a proposal presented by "Suspended Spaces", has rooted in a collective project; or in better words, in a project developed for several years now by a group of people organized in a collective, focusing on politically, economically and historically conflictual territories that are in status of suspension. Those sensitive, fragile and temporary spaces are what makes the artistic gaze necessary, relevant and legitimate. To start with, there was Famagusta's closed city in Cyprus; then Tripoli International Fair in Lebanon, an unfinished project by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. 
That construction site started in 1962 and could never get completed, as the civil war starting in 1975 has frozen the project into today's condition. Although primarily located at the edge of the city, today the Fair resides in a more central location, as the urban development of Lebanon's second largest city has caught up with it. The gardens surrounding the building are well maintained, but the whole area stays closed, occasionally invaded by the neighborhood's children, seldom opened for public events.
The project working group has organized in-situ conferences in Lebanon twice, in 2011 and in 2013. About thirty Lebanese and international artists and theoreticians took part in them. Rennes’ exhibition will give the opportunity of adding another step to this migrant and budget-constrained project. The project is mainly fueled by the conversations [1] constantly developing between participants and expanding into the work and experimentation of new artistic forms.
The artists will build the exhibition remotely, little by little, and it will very much be a work in progress, in a scenario that includes final productions, document sharing, speeches and testimonies spread into spaces, performances and temporary screenings.
When it opens, on November 6, 2013, the gallery will introduce the two main elements that will articulate the script of the upcoming exhibition: a huge table running all along the gallery, as if for a banquet, and a movie made by the project community based on a protocol of remote Skype interviews recorded in September 2013 with each artist. The movie will include only a few edited highlights extracted from those long conversations, and the whole of the recording will be made available to visitors.
The table has the same shape as the one used by the guests of the week-long in-situ conference "Suspended Spaces" in Beirut’s Mansion in the neighborhood of Al Zarif (website). Mansion is not only a spacious house welcoming both artists and their creative and reflective activities; but the building is also an artistic project in itself, since, threatened by housing market speculation, it was saved from demolition to become a space available to resistance and poetry. 
That table, like the one in Mansion, will play a central role, acting as both anchor point and exchange hub. As the scenario of the exhibition unfolds, between November 6 and November 20, 2013, the table will be the stage of increasing activity.
The screening of the 'movie' made by the "Suspended Spaces" collective will take place right at the beginning of the exhibition, like some kind of preface. Truly the modus operandi of the project, the conversations, led by the community members with each of the ten exhibiting artists, focus on the artwork displayed in Rennes. However they will also expand on the concept of "Suspended Spaces", its interpretation and its resonance in relation to each artist's work and geopolitical environment.
The exhibition's vernissage is scheduled for December 12, 2013, which is more than a month after its actual opening. The week before, from December 9 to December 12, the artists will stay in Rennes, in order to complete a project or a hanging, to set up workshops, meetings and screenings, and to follow up on the conversation around the long table. The exhibition will attempt to reveal the process behind "Suspended Spaces" as a project based on trust, exchange, a taste for experimentation, strength and risk in community.

[1] Grant Kester, Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art, University of California Press, 2004.

« Conversation piece is a term for an informal group portrait, especially those painted in Britain in the 18th century, beginning in the 1720s. They are distinguished by their portrayal of the group apparently engaged in genteel conversation or some activity, very often outdoors. Typically the group will be members of a family, but friends may be included, and some groups are of friends, members of a society or hunt, or some other grouping. (…) The phrase "conversation piece" later acquired a different meaning. It came to refer to objects that were perceived to be interesting enough to spark conversation about them. They provide a stimulus for prop-based conversation openers. The original conversation pieces sometimes depicted a group united in conversation about an object, which would typically be an item linked to science or scholarship. » (wikipedia)

Tripoli, International Fair, April 2013

© Suspended spaces

Photo credits

William Hogarth, A Midnight Modern Conversation., 1733 © the British Museum

At Mansion, Beirut, april 2013

© Suspended spaces

Practical informations

Address :

Galerie Art & Essai, Université Rennes 2,

campus Villejean, place du Recteur Henri Le Moal, 35000 Rennes, France

Metro: Villejean-Université

Phone: 00 33 (0) 2 99 14 11 42

Opening times

Tuesday- friday, 13.00-18.00

Closed on week-ends.

Free entrance.

Vernissage : november 6, 2013 at 18.30.

Opening (with the artists and the final form of the exhibition): december 12, 2013, 18:30.