Curator : Emmanuel Daydé
Production : Agence Eva Albarran § C
with the participation of l’Ircam
Zad Moultaka : ‘Everything was resting in Ur’
‘Within our civilisation, which is becoming lost on the shores of materialism and drowning on the surface of the visible, it is imperative and urgent to question the sacred in the very heart of Man. The project of the Lebanese pavilion for the Venice Biennale intends to be at the centre of this questioning through a spatial, temporal and sound dialogue between Ur in Iraq, Beirut in Lebanon and Aleppo in Syria, sites of terrible violence past and present, full of symbolic power of the Near East. It will take place in the former civilian and military shipyard of the Venetian fleet.
ŠamaŠ is rooted mentally, physically and philosophically in the refusal of the drama that we are witnessing in this solar region of the world that is the Middle East, cradle of eastern and western civilisations. The Arab apocalypse, which threatens to put an end to these civilisations, is not unavoidable. Under Syria’s bombarded skies, one can still glimpse the emergence of the first codes of Babylonian laws and the desire of a wild peace. Today’s Man has been ripped from the soil and fallen down from the sky. Deaf and blind to the essence of things, he is programming his own obliteration, hastening with it, by anxiety, the crumbling of the world…’
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.
64 speakers for this prayer ŠamaŠ Itima (Dark Sun)
For mixed choir 32 voices a cappella & electronics
Sumerian hymn to the Sun sung in Akkadian
by the Choir of the Antonine-Lebanon University
Toufic Maatouk, conductor
Electronic signed by Zad Moultaka and Gilbert Nouno,
With the active participation of IRCAM
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!”