He lined its interior walls with cedar boards,
Panelling them from the floor of the temple to the ceiling,
And covered the floor of the temple with planks of juniper.
1 Kings 6:15 – The construction of King Salomon’s Temple 976 BC
In the exhibition Tout arbre est un chant the poet Etel Adnan meets the photographer Houda Kassatly on the theme: trees of Lebanon.
Since the end of the civil war and the early years of reconstruction Houda Kassatly has, through her photographs, exhibitions, books, articles and participation in symposiums and conferences, continually denounced the massive destruction of Beirut’s houses. Although the power of money has somewhat destroyed her battle, she has not become discouraged.
In this new exhibition about trees Kassatly continues her work as artist-ethnologist, denouncing the massive destruction of our forest heritage. She rings the alarm bells: the chaotic and uncontrolled urbanisation pushes back nature and its biodiversity. The oasis that Lebanon used to represent is fast disappearing!
Etel Adnan has responded to Galerie Alice Mogabgab’s invitation from Paris, where she lives, with a poem inspired by Houda Kassatly’s photographs. In these verses about the trees of her native country, the artist-poet lovingly draws with words the roots, trunks, leaves and branches, and composes with the colour of the wind the song of trees.
The writer and painter Etel Adnan was born in Beirut in 1925 of a Greek mother and a Syrian father. She grew up in the Lebanese capital. In 1949 she went to study philosophy at the Paris Sorbonne and in 1955 continued her research at Berkeley University of California and at Harvard University in Cambridge.
Her artistic career began in 1960, but despite numerous exhibitions of her paintings and drawings in the US, in Europe and the Middle East, her work went unnoticed until 2012, where it was shown at the dOCUMENTA 13 in Kassel. Since then, important exhibitions have been dedicated to her at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (2014), the Mathaf (Arab Museum of Modern Art) in Doha (2014), the IMMA of Dublin (2015), the Museum der Modern in Salzbourg (2015), the Serpentine Gallery in London (2016), the Moderna Museet in Malmö (2016), the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris (2016) and The Flag Art Foundation in New York (2017).
Etel Adnan has published numerous books in French and English: poetry, essays, short stories, articles and letters. She has also created pieces for theatre, collaborating with, among others, playwright Robert Wilson and composer Gavin Bryars.
“All her work resonates with the people’s din and fury over the Algerian war or the Vietnam war, and over the conflicts of the Middle East. Holding dear peace and liberty, she has never ceased to take up the cause of oppressed people in their fight and endless rifts. Be it for the people’s or the women’s cause, Etel Adnan is a committed woman,” wrote Jack Lang in his preface to the catalogue for the exhibition Etel Adnan, une grande figure des arts at the Paris Institut du Monde Arabe, in 2016.
The ethnologist and photographer Houda Kassatly was born in Beirut in 1960 of a Syrian mother and Lebanese father. She grew up in Beirut and obtained her MPhil in philosophy from the University of Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne). In 1987 she presented her doctorate in ethnology and comparative sociology at the University of Paris X (Nanterre). Her training as an ethnologist and her many poignant articles published in specialized revues on religious traditions has sharpened her view of our architectural heritage and social traditions. This rigorous expertise goes hand in hand with the photography that she has been perfecting from a young age.
Her entry into the world of photography dates back to 1987 when the photograph library at the Centre Georges Pompidou-Beaubourg acquired a hundred or so of her images. In 1992 she exhibits at the Institut du Monde Arabe; in 1993, at the Musée d’Art Moderne (Palais de Tokyo). Then follows a string of exhibitions in Beirut as part of The Month of Photography or the publication of a book, in art galleries or cultural centres. In 1995 Galerie Alice Mogabgab dedicates a first solo exhibition in Beirut to Kassatly, and has since regularly presented her photographs and publications.
Houda Kassatly is the author of the following publications:
- La communauté monastique de Deir el Harf (1996, University of Balamand) ;
- De pierres et de couleurs, vie et mort des maisons du vieux Beyrouth (1998, Éditions Layali) ;
- Si proches, si extrêmes, rituels en sursis du Liban et de la Syrie (1998, Éditions Layali) ;
- Terres de Békaa, L’aménagement de l’habitat rural sur le haut plateau libanais (2000, Geuthner) ;
- Beiteddine silences et lumières (2001, Editions Layali) ;
- Les camions peints du Liban d’aujourd’hui (2009, Editions Terre du Liban) ;
- Beyrouth : l’iconographie d’une absence (2010, Editions Al Ayn) ;
- De terre et de lumière, les maisons à coupoles du nord de la Syrie avec Karin Puett (2011, Editions Al Ayn) ;
- Beyrouth, Clair de ruine with Michel Cassir (2012, Editions Al Ayn) ;
- Matériel de la vie rurale with Nadine Panayot-Haroun (2013, University of Balamand) ;
- Hovsep Madénian, un portraitiste oublié (2015, Editions Al Ayn, the Traces collection) ;
- Roland Sidawi, le Liban sans retouche (2015, Editions Al Ayn, the Traces collection).
Tout arbre est un chant is the third exhibition of a series entitled Correspondances.
This third exhibition/encounter between a poet and an artist of today, organised by the Galerie Alice Mogabgab, is accompanied by a limited edition catalogue*.