Public Engagement

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City and City - exhibition

Tuesday, October 4, 2016 at 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center 66 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10003

“City and City” takes as its point of origin the idea that perception is central to the organization of the city. This derives from an insight lucidly articulated in the murder-mystery novel by China Miéville, The City and The City, which is about two imaginary cities that are intertwined, Beszel and Ul Qoma. Although they occupy the same geographical space, their respective citizens are bound by law to perceive only those buildings, people, activities, etc. taking place in their own city. The breach between Beszel and Ul Qoma is therefore primarily ideological, as it depends on each city’s willingness to systematically un-see all aspects of life pertaining to the other city. Miéville’s novel revolves around the myriad acts of de-recognition necessary to maintain the illusion of two cities, Beszel and Ul Qoma, an illusion upon which their common civil order is founded.

In this exhibition Beirut is the City and New York is the City. Together they are the City and the City. They are bound to one another here because each is being destroyed, or “killed” in Henri Lefebvre’s dramatic description of capitalism’s structural violence. To kill a city is to make its space homogenous, or to drain it of irreconcilable difference. The works in “City and City”—which include installation, sculpture, photography, video¬—obliquely posit real estate development and its avatars as a form of violence against the city when such development makes the city’s history hard to see, easy to un-see.

The show is loosely split between artists based in New York and artists based in Beirut, although like many of their generation these artists’ association to a place is ambiguous and layered. Elizabeth Tubergen’s sculpture, commissioned for this exhibition, pictures the interval between the gallery and the street as—literally—a reflective space for the visitor to sit and watch 5th Avenue. Marwa Arsanios’s animation depicts a modernist resort’s tentative transformation into refugee housing. Helene Kazan’s sound installation tries to produce in the viewer an awareness of the invisible, perpetual risk of catastrophe that the contemporary city of glass and glossy advertising is at great pains to obscure. Lara Tabet’s eerie photographs picture nocturnal gay cruising in Beirut on the waterfront land that is in the process of being privatized for commercial development. In each artist’s work there is some specific articulation of the City’s violent homogenization by Capital, but there is also a poetic openness to some common loss. These works are bound together by their attention to the effects of structural violence and to minute acts of perception as resistance.


Marwa Arsanios

Mirene Arsanios

Chaghig Arzoumanian

Roy Dib

Chafa Ghaddar

Sirine Fattouh

Rachel Higgins

David Johnson

Helene Kazan

Dages Juvelier Keates

Jessika Khazrik

Lara Tabet

Elizabeth Tubergen

Jody Wood

Curated by Natasha Marie Llorens

Related programs:

Sunday, September 18th, 5 – 7 p.m. 
The City and the City: Dages Juleleir Keates and Helene Kazan 
Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries and Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Auditorium (next to the gallery)

Elizabeth Tubergen invites choreographer and dancer Keates to interact with Tubergen’s contribution to the exhibition, a large reflective bench facing the front window of the exhibition space, and therefore also facing 5th Avenue. Following this, Kazan will give a performative lecture related to her installation as part of an on-going research project on the aesthetics of risk. Kazan and Keates will field questions together after the concluding their respective performances.

Friday, September 30th, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
The City and the City: Roy Dib, Chaghig Arzoumanian, and Mirene Arsanios
Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Auditorium, next to the gallery

Roy Dib's film Mondial 2010 (20 min) follows a couple on a weekend trip from Beirut to Ramallah. Chaghig Arzoumanian's Au retour des marées (47 min) narrates to experience of a young Beiruti home from college in the US to mourn the death of her mother. Mirene Arsanios will read from a collection of short stories written between 2013 and 2015, The City Without a Sentence, about her experiences in Beirut.

Sponsored by the Sheila Johnson Design Center at The New School. 

City and City is made possible in part with public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

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