The project conceived by Zad Moultaka for the Lebanese Pavilion combines visual architecture and sound composition. The artist merges the musical and visual research in a synergy of forms, materials and sounds.
Zad Moultaka – The Venetian project of the Lebanese pavilion : “At the beginning was Jeita”
Within our civilization, which is lost on the shore of materialism and drowning at the surface of the visible, it is imperative to question the sacred in the very heart of man. When Zad Moultaka discovered Jeita in the beginning of the 80s, it sent through him shock waves, which still move him deeply, nurturing, thirty years later, his relation to the world.
To descend into the cave is to go down into the depths of one’s own being. Millions of years ago, nature has moulded inside of it totem signs and forms, next to which man has lived with fear and humility. He would enter the womb of the mountain examining its walls, rivers and cracks. The Homo sapiens of our prehistoric time, was related to another space beyond the visible world, and anchored to Earth so as to tame its obscure forces, perhaps, in order to establish new laws for living together.
The project of the Lebanese Pavilion for the Biennale di Venezia aims at being a center of inquiry, through out a time- and sound-based dialogue connecting three different sites, Jeita, Babylon and Aleppo, immemorial sites of prayer and dreadful violence, and symbolic power of the Near East. It will take place in the old Venetian civil and military shipyard of the Venetian fleet: “Aresenale Nuovissimo”.
What is this savage god we worship who destroys entire cities, who slaughters their inhabitants, who spreads random violence and sends millions of men on the road throughout the world ? What is this god but the god of bloodshed – the very one invoked by the playwright Yasmina Reza, “the only one that reigns unchallenged since the dawn of time”? And yet, in the Middle East, at the dawn of civilisation, it was the god of justice that was worshiped at first. Engraved on a high stele of black basalt from around 2000 BC, the totemic Code of Hammurabi gives birth to the code of law. At the very top of the monument, Hammurabi, the wise Babylonian king, reigning over all ancient Mesopotamia, puts himself under the protection of the Sun God ŠamaŠ (the Š is pronounced “sh” in Akkadian) from which derives the Arabic word شمس: šams that signifies sun. Just as light dispels darkness, ŠamaŠ sheds light on evil and puts an end to injustice.
Fiercely contemporary while remaining powerfully archaic, convinced that the memory of the West is rooted in that of the East, and haunted by the idea of connecting two shores with a single voice, Zad Moultaka wanted to discover who ŠamaŠ was today. While refusing to make a business of Lebanon’s war of wars (and Syria’s could well have been next in line), Moultaka makes use of the nightmares that torment us, and the fear of death coming from above like a constant rumour, a death knell, an explosive force, to produce a powerful work: a cry against barbarism and its trade. As a musician and visual artist who sees sounds and hears images, the Lebanese artist plunges his hands into gold and grease to question this millennial violence that is terrifyingly present these days. Passing through the heart of ancient Mesopotamia, he remembers a horde of invisible demons already sowing death and pain, thundering with the powerful storm or whistling in the winds.
Where can this demonic song that fills the Earth be found, if not in the incessant buzzing of the air strikes that fill the skies of the Middle East? The stele of ŠamaŠ is now erected in the sparkling engines of the bomber aircraft, in the phallic torpedoes excised from their compressors, their propellers or their combustion chambers. Moving away from the indifferent mechanisation of Marcel Duchamp’s readymades to draw closer to the vibrant cosmogonic Polytopes of Iannis Xenakis, this crepuscular relic from a world collapsing in the night of the Arab soul intones the Lament for Ur, like a prayer addressed to the sacred bones wrested from the god of bloodshed. By placing this sovereign engine against an eternal Golden Calf, and drawing inspiration from the byzantine mosaics of fire of San Marco, Moultaka establishes a triumphal pathway that releases garbled litanies towards this blackened ray of sunshine, broken up and shot down in mid-air. For the child of the Lebanese mountains, ŠamaŠ is mentally, physically and philosophically rooted in the rejection of the solar drama we are witnessing in the Middle East. The Arab apocalypse, which programmes its own obliteration and precipitates the world’s unravelling, is not inevitable. It is always possible to stop violence: ŠamaŠ is also a palindrome that oscillates equally between justice and injustice.
A place matching the project — Since 1999, a part of the installations of the Arsenale (Rope factory, Artiglierie, Gaggiandre, Tese Cinquecentesche, Tese delle Vergini) is intended to welcome the monumental exhibitions in an eminently historic frame. Of a surface of 50,000 square meters, the Arsenale became one of the major sites of the Biennale di Venezia to receive the biggest contemporary artists.
A special partnership with IRCAM — Founded by Pierre Boulez in 1969, the Institut de Recherche et Coordination acoustique/musique is today one of the world’s largest and most important public research centres devoted to musical creation, sound and scientific research. A unique facility where artistic exploration and technological innovation converge, the Institute is directed by Frank Madlener and brings together more than 160 collaborators.
A Catalogue/CD — A catalogue will be published and sold during the Biennale. Three authors have been approached for reference texts on the work. It will include in particular the aesthetic analysis of the work by Emmanuel Daydé, the curator. Other texts will confront the desire for permanence to the imminence of the ephemeral in Zad Moultaka’s work. The catalogue will have a press run of 1,500 copies.
Published by the label “L’empreinte digitale”, the CD would include music, anthems and recitations composed by Zad Moultaka.
“Blood of the countries assembles like bronze and lead;
Its dead bow, melting all by themselves like grease under the sun;
Its men, slaughtered by the axe, with no helmet to protect them;
Like a trapped gazelle they lie flat and bite the dust…
Mothers and fathers who don’t leave their homes, are flooded with fire;
Children sleeping in their mother’s lap, are swept away by the waters, like fish…
May this disaster be entirely subdued!
As the large gate of the night, may the door get shut!”