How my journey to Beirut ended up on an art gallery wall

In preparation for a trip to Lebanon to write about the art scene in Beirut, I interviewed Negar Azimi, who is an editor at Bidoun, a Middle East arts magazine that is a favorite of mine.  She used to work at Townhouse Gallery in Cairo, which is also a favorite and a place I profiled in an article I’d written some years earlier for Travel + Leisure about Egyptian contemporary art.  Negar proved a marvel: deeply knowledgeable about art throughout the region and generous with advice and contacts.  But she is also one of those people who seems involved in some vital way with countless interesting projects so it was no great surprise when, at the end of our conversation, she asked me if I would be willing to carry some unexposed film to Beirut for the artist Walead Beshty.

Naturally, I agreed, but it soon came out that Walead was not in Beirut: the journey of the film was itself part of the art.  Beshty’s studio directed me to pack the film in my checked luggage, not carry it on board, so that it would be run through the x-ray scanner and the various streaks and discolorations that photographers normally try to avoid would serve as a record of the migration.  So, in September 2009 I flew from New York to Beirut, transiting through Istanbul, and the film I carried ended up in an exhibit called “Noise” that Negar curated with Babak Radboy at Beirut’s Sfeir-Semler gallery, which ran from 11 December 2009 to 3 April 2010.

Click here to see more of Walead’s work from that exhibit, or click here for my photographs of Lebanon.

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