I am Dalia Baassiri, a Lebanese visual artist based in Beirut.
Having grown up during the civil war, I question the relationship with a country in continuous conflict. How does one identify with a land while having spent most of one's childhood indoors? In my interdisciplinary work ranging from drawing, painting to sculpture, I find refuge and answers within the parameters of my own home. From dust to walls and everything in between, the domestic world has become the most familiar fertile ground for artistic discourse.
I explored living close to volatile territories in my solo exhibition Vesuvius at Espronceda Institute of Art and Culture. Inspired by Pompeii, I created ash sculptures to manifest my inner dialogue with St. Elias Hill, the launching site of the missile that burned half of my house. Accordingly, while building the hill out of half a ton of ash and paper mache, I was thinking heavily about my burnt curtain. The 8-meter-wide sculpture became a hill in the shape of a curtain and a curtain in the shape of a hill.
My work has been showcased on both local and international platforms, and my sculptures have been finalists for the Celeste Prize 9th Ed and the Arte Laguna Prize 13th Ed. I have also been granted residencies among them, in 2015 at Siena Art Institute (Italy) sponsored by Kempinski Young Artist Program, in 2016 at Residency Unlimited (Brooklyn NY) and Sculpture Space (Utica NY), both sponsored by ArteEast and in 2018 at Espronceda Institute of Art & Culture (Barcelona) awarded by ArteLaguna Prize 12th Ed.
Recently, I have been invited to take part in “Cities Under Quarantine; the Mailbox Project” by Dongola Books. In this ambitious artist’s book project, the publishing house sent a blank notebook to 57 artists around the world, and we made interventions on them.
Can you imagine the world without the act of cleaning? Would you be able to process your thoughts and start over when everything around you is so messy? Would you keep eating from dirty plates, pouring fresh food on top of a set of leftovers until you fall sick? Or would you choose to keep buying disposables and have them piled everywhere until you become homeless in your own space?
My life in Beirut makes me think about the act of cleaning. I feel trapped in a small land buried under the rubbles of the past, and there is no room for anything new to happen. Is cleaning Beirut possible? This city has continuously been engulfed in smoke since the outbreak of the civil war in 1975. One does not know if we can really get rid of this thick dust accumulated over the years. Can we wipe away the residues of the past when they are so deeply rooted in our memories?
My current project, "Sink-ronized", investigates the current fragile situation in Lebanon. The body of work comprises pencil drawings of ephemeral soap sculptures made at my kitchen sink. Using soap for the first time in my practice could open new sculptural possibilities due to its unique momentarily quality.
In "Sink-ronized", I create forms with soapsuds, sometimes introduce everyday objects, take pictures of them, observe them by making intricate pencil drawings, and then watch them dissipate and disappear in peace. By using soap as a medium, I look to incorporate art into every home. I want people to think of all the possible forms or shapes they can create every time they wash their hands.
I am constantly searching for means to achieve order amid chaos. Only at home, while washing the dishes, I feel in control of my fate. I choose to clean the plates, floors, and windows and clean my eyes, ears, and, most importantly, clean my thoughts. When my city no longer resembles me, I find myself in soapsuds. So soft and delicate, they dematerialise into the void while emitting a tender, subtle sound. When one feels like an alien in their city, they hide in the shadows of their loneliness just like foam recedes into the strainer.
This daily encounter with soap has become a silent language, a private conversation with a no longer familiar city. Today, Beirut’s fate lies in dirty hands. Hands that have emptied pockets and fridges yet successfully filled departure gates. Maybe when I draw my soap sculptures with my clean hands, capture every bubble, I slow down time, and destiny waits until all the dirt is washed away.
I am looking forward to discussing this project with a curator and exhibit this work. I value your suggestions and ideas. To know more about my work, my email is: www.daliabaassiri.com and my Instagram is @daliabaassiri.art.