The Theatricality of a Postponed Death
11 May – 24 June 2023
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After his innovative rock musical with taxidermy animals “The Sea Between My Soul” at Onassis Stegi, Lebanese artist Raed Yassin returns to Athens for yet another ground-breaking solo exhibition. Mirroring the artist’s wellknown caustic humor “The Theatricality of a Postponed Death” raises key questions about war and grief, about trial and failure, the role of art in times of upheaval, personal and socio-political impact of artistic censorship. In a period of great economic and socio-political upheaval, Yassin’s exhibition is more timely than ever.
At times, a physical collective act that only takes place once has the ability to leave a trace in people’s minds for decades to come. In 1984, during the darkest days of the civil war in Beirut, a surreal theatrical street procession managed to stop the war for a few hours while it marched from the city towards the sea. Raif Karam, the artist’s professor, staged the entire performance as a protest to the war, but also as a protest towards the restrictions of theatre itself. One of main characters of this performance was based on Shushu – a famous Lebanese comedian – who died tragically after his dreams of building a theatre were shattered by the onset of war. Karam involved many actors, dancers, artists and city dwellers in the performance, which left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of the Beirut’s residents at the time.
Fast forward to 2022, under the shadow of war that had revisited the European continent, the artist Raed Yassin decided to re-enact the parade on the streets of Graz, Austria, by creating a kind of funerary procession that happens only once in the spirit of the original work. Here, Shushu is recreated as a giant inflatable parade float, looking as if he is comatose and in between a place of life and death, mimicking the current situation of Lebanon as a failed state. The music of the parade is based on Shushu’s political and children’s songs of the time, but they are transformed into a New Orleans style funerary score.
In the exhibition presented at Kalfayan Galleries, the inflatable Shushu, the giant head masks based on the portraits of his theatre troupe, and other memorabilia from the performance is restaged in a museum-like display, highlighting the power of these objects as the remnants of a ritual that once existed, much like a funeral. By taking them out of their original context, the objects are now new subjects to be perused and studied up close, manifesting a different future and new possibilities through them.