Lebanese artist Ramzi Mallat’s solo exhibition at P21 gallery titled Fault Lines explores themes of radical heritage, resistance and poetry.
In the film titled Sobhiye (title screen below), loosely translated as “gossiping over coffee”, Mallat engages in conversations with the people of Lebanon, shedding light on their daily hardships and sentiments towards the absent government. The documentary introduces us to a fisherman, a baker, and a taxi driver, a shepherdess and a spirit producer to provide a glimpse into the diverse experiences of the country’s residents. Additionally, it incorporates shots from the 2019 revolution in Beirut and sobering footage of the port before and after the blast that rocked the city in 2020. By weaving together a personal and political narrative, the film showcases the tumultuous recent years in Mallat’s homeland.
The aftermath of the port explosion left an indelible mark on Mallat, especially the shockwave that shattered countless windows and instantly reshaped the cityscape. In a fitting tribute to the lives lost, the artist crafted a memorial out of coloured glass sculptures (lead image) arranged in the shape of Maamouls— traditional pastries consumed during Eid and Easter which are adorned with shapes of sunbursts, flowers and leaves. Mallat states: “this memorial serves as a poignant reminder of the vulnerability of peace, bridging a horrific past with a hopeful future through the act of un-forgetting.”
The exhibition delves further into Levantine culture with a project where Mallat invited people to explore their futures by reading coffee grounds in what many consider to be traditional Lebanese cups – ironically manufactured in China. Foreign influence is also evident in his recreation of the Lebanese parliament building, a structure dating back to the French occupation, blending Western and Middle Eastern architectural styles.
Mallat challenges conventional interpretations of the evil eye symbol prevalent in the region, distorting it to prompt contemplation about how it encourages people to believe fate dictates our lives when in fact societal inequality, rooted in corruption, often plays a more significant role (pictured above).
A central theme in Ramzi Mallat’s work is the questioning of power structures, both historical and contemporary. This thought-provoking exhibition encourages viewers to reflect on the complex interplay between personal narratives, political upheavals, and societal injustices through cultural heritage.
Ramzi Mallat: Fault Lines is on at P21 Gallery until 2nd December and is free to visit. The artist will be in conversation on 2 December, 4-6pm.
All images courtesy the artist. Titles of artworks from top to bottom: Not Your Martyr, Sobhiye (still image) and Billow and Behold.