Images of recent heritage site destructions by ISIS have provoked a cultural earthquake. On Archeological Site BEY002 depicts with an assemblage of stone and gravel a drawing’s restitution of a 1995 archaeological dig Place des Martyrs, Beirut. Globalization has transfigured art practices, paradoxically spawning geographical particularities: the myth of a flat space has collapsed. Less noticeably but more significantly, we’re living not only at the same time but the same time, wherever we are. Hence a consciousness of the simultaneity of our actions and an interlinking of our timelines and chronologies. This work translates the chronological entanglement. To each succeeding civilization—Byzantine, Roman, Hellenistic, Persian— corresponds a color. The stratification extends into the ancestral past, prior to humans, as we move from archaeology to geology.
Men, and sometimes children, carry bouquets of red roses in the Achrafieh neighborhood, near Sassine Square, thus introducing unusual ornaments into Beirut’s streets. Nobody speaks to them; neither do they buy flowers. Yet, every morning, they return to the same place with their red roses. In fact, in 2002, everyone feared these “florists” who were strongly suspected of being members of the Syrian secret services. These Syrians thus employ an established symbol of rhetoric—flowers, most commonly red roses—as street ornamentation. All against a background of terror. The photographs in The Flowers of Damascus capture this extreme tension between the beauty of red roses, the Beirut art of living, and the Syrian occupation that has long ruled the city. In Les fleurs de Tarbes (1941), French writer and publisher Jean Paulhan gave a detailed description of the relation between rhetoric and terror, asserting that terror reigned in French literary circles in the 1930s, aimed at banning the practice of rhetoric, which he defends. At the same time, Paulhan recognizes that rhetoric can be a terrorist technique too. In Syria and Lebanon everybody knows about these relations between rhetoric and terror.