Intangible experiences, arrangements and manoeuvres
September 9 - October 3, 2013
Grey Noise, Dubai

Grey Noise is pleased to announce 'Intangible experiences, arrangements and manoeuvres’ an exhibition featuring Charbel-joseph H. Boutros & Stéphanie Saadé.
Curated by Amanda Abi Khalil.

Charbel-joseph H.Boutros and Stéphanie Saadé’s practices converge on their shared negotiation with forms and the nature of the material.

Their artistic endeavors are rooted in different art movements such as post-conceptual art and post-minimalism since they both studied art and started their practices in the West. Born in Lebanon, H.Boutros and Saadé have shared similar positions with regards to their treatment of contextual issues related to their country; the wars and their experiences of it. 

In this exhibition: installations, re-enactments, sculptures and arrangements are traces of performances, phenomena and experiences. 

Charbel-joseph H.Boutros’ works are based on performative arrangements that become the work, the traces of impossible manoeuvres that bear witness to the uneasiness of the existential and political reality. By collecting phenomena such as darkness, light, sun and sleep among others, H.Boutros gives volume to intangible experiences granting presence to absence. The works become the custodian of poetic moments.

"Neon enclosing its own light” is an imperceptible performance of light hidden inside a tube creating a feeling of awkwardness for the spectator in search of proof. H.Boutros’ work often questions the viewers’ trust, engaging them in another type of "experience" hence a status of responsibility. This applies to the work "1cm3 of infinite darkness", a minimalistic sculpture of a white cube capturing at once complex scientific and philosophical questions on the possibility of capturing darkness. The performance of these manoeuvres is imaginary, philosophical, hidden, implicit or intangible, pointing through our discomfort and astonishment, at our existential and contextual realities. Some works have explicit messages even though they hold the same complex aura.

"Mixed water, Lebanon Israel" is a piece referring directly to the Lebanese and Israeli conflict around water rights. Yet, it encompasses, impossible political and physical acts, of two geographies being merged by water. His latest work "a Removed stone" is a performance of a stone displaced from a forest in Lebanon – a childhood terrain – and carried along with the artist to the exhibition space. The stone will be placed back in the same position in the forest on the artist’s following trip to Lebanon. 
The stone, an inanimate body becomes the witness of an experience; a living body that might have acquired another perception of its surroundings. This piece grants a possible life to the stone and enacts a metaphorical image that is familiar to romanticism.

The philosophical resonance of this work recalls an essay by Jean-Christophe Bailly where poetry and philosophy reach a common statement: 

"It is pointless here to mock Heidegger again about his stones—which do not even have a world—since it is true that we do not instinctively lump stones together with the living. […] It is in reference to Baudelaire that Walter Benjamin, in trying to illustrate the intrinsic value of what is dated, makes recourse to a rather unexpected image that will be invaluable to us here: “The imprint he has left behind there must stand out clear and intact, like that of a stone which, having lain in the ground for decades, is one day rolled from its place” (2003, 321). […] Here the stone is a marker of singularity, and the imprint is itself living. And if this is the case (such that the imprint or trace is almost identical to the image), then it is because there was a degree of correspondence (a pressure, a smoothness, an insistence) between the stone and the ground of the forest. The inert needs to be reconsidered here too, because one sees that there is not only a reserve of meaning within it, but also a kind of narrative”. 

J.C Bailly in The Slightest Breath on Living, The New Centennial Review, Volume 10, Number 3, Winter 2010, pp. 1-11

H.Boutros’ stone piece embodies a premise that is common in Saadé’s work, related to the importance of remoteness and strangeness for one’s perception of his direct environment - a reminder of both artist’s expatriation despite their concern for their country’s history.

Stéphanie Saadé’s works encapsulate cultural and psychological experiences. Her practice is informed by her urban trajectories and her endeavor resembles the anthropologist’s methodology. The “Re-Enactement” series touch on the vernacular aesthetic, yet it is modified by the implicit input of her estranged re-appropriation. She grasps through the effect of distantiation and estrangement the signs of individuality within a specific cultural context. Centred on mundane objects fabricated by other people, her reproductions obliterate the idea of authorship. Some Re-enactments formalistically refer to specific aesthetics and movements of art history, conceptually they can be considered as revisiting ‘readymade’.

“Re-Enactment is centred on objects created by others that I appropriate through a process of reproduction. The departure point of this series lies in the moment where one becomes estranged from his/her surroundings, which allows him/her to newly perceive these objects that in the past appeared to be blended in the surroundings. My purpose is to reproduce the objects, designs, layouts and configurations that resist my understanding and my taste, to grasp the logic and the cultural dispositions underlying the making of these objects. The chosen objects escape formatting and standardization. They have been conceived to serve a practical purpose: conscious or not, the still and aesthetic decisions have been made, or an aesthetically interesting form has been unintentionally created. In their new exhibition context, the re-created objects surpass practicality; they access new layers of meaning, make way for new interpretations, and raise questions about the cultural aesthetic that they result from, or not. It is an unending self-reflexive process since such objects and traces exist in unlimited numbers. While it can be performed anywhere and started at the scale of a country, it can also reduce its perimeter to a very small one, such as the one crossed while going down the stairs, until it is exhausted. After my intervention, the objects exist twice, sometimes at a few meters’ distance, which also generates uncanny-ness. The ‘’Re-Enactment’’ series can be seen as an archival work of fallen, unimportant, neglected or disregarded objects." - Stéphanie Saadé

Saadé often intervenes on industrial material exploring new ways of shaping meaning through rough primary material and elements. She works in series each comprising a specific methodology. The rendering of the same methodology to different forms is less of an experiment on a technique than a way to assert a rather sociological or psychological component in the work through perceptibly formalistic gestures. Intangible experiences unveil forms, sculptures and sometimes - unintentional drawings.

In the series “Scarred object", the artist segments metal bars in equal pieces; these are then welded back together in an attempt to re-constitute the original shape of the bar. The new rods present almost imperceptible but nonetheless existing deformations and welding scars. The scar is the witness of an experience that can metaphorically relate to the Lebanese experience of the war, but can also be the manifestation of any irreversible physical or psychological transformation or fracture.

The works chosen for this exhibition are traces of intangible experiences manifested in tangible reproductions, arrangements and installations. Here, manoeuvres recall as much its technical connotation as its conceptual one. The exhibition becomes a terrain of new experiences, challenging the viewer’s conceptual, cultural, social and philosophical references.

Text by Amanda Abi Khalil


Charbel-joseph H.Boutros / b. 1981, Bikfaya / Lives and works between Beirut, Paris and Maastricht. 

Charbel studied architecture and sculpture in the Beaux-Arts, Paris. H.Boutros is currently a resident at Jan Van Eyck, Maastricht, The Netherlands. He was resident in FAAP artistic residency in Sao Paulo in 2011-12 and in la Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris in 2012-13. His work has been exhibited in the 12th International Istanbul Biennial, Untitled, 2011 / Beirut Art Center, Exposure 2010 / MAM-BA Museum of Modern Art of Bahia / FAAP, Sao Paulo / Biennial of St Etienne / Institut Français d’Architecture, IFA, Paris / Institut de France, Académie des Beaux-arts, Paris / IFA, Jardins des Tuileries, Paris / MINUS 5, Beirut / Workhsop Gallery, Beirut / galerie Anne Barrault part of Nouvelles Vagues, Palais de Tokyo, Paris / the Beirut Exhibition Center, Beirut / Jan Van Eyck, Maastricht and Frontenpark, Maastricht.

Stéphanie Saadé / b. 1983, Beirut / Lives and works in Beirut

From 2005 to 2010, Stéphanie attended the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and graduated with an MFA. In 2008, and then from 2010 to 2012, she was granted two scholarships for China. She was an artist in residence at the PROGR in Bern, Switzerland until the beginning of 2013, and is now based in Beirut. Her work has been exhibited at the Beirut Art Center, Exposure 2011 / The Running Horse Gallery, Beirut / MINUS 5, Beirut / The Beirut Exhibition Center, Beirut/ Workhsop Gallery, Beirut / Young Artist of the Year, A.M. Qattan Foundation, Palestine / Qalandyia International Biennial, Palestine / PROGR, Bern / TRANSFORM, Bern as well as in China and France. Her work is included in two contemporary art collections, has been published in PEEPING TOM’S Digest #3 Beirut and featured in DUST magazine online.


Amanda Abi Khalil is an independent curator based in Beirut. At the Sorbonne, Paris, she studied art mediation, sociology, and anthropology of art, graduating with an MA in Curating Art for Public Spaces. She has worked in leading cultural institutions in France such as “CENTQUATRE”, and “Aix-en-Provence International Opera Festival”. She was the director and curator of “The HANGAR” art space in Beirut until 2012 in which she has curated numerous exhibitions and installations with emerging and established international artists. She also teaches art history and sociology of arts at the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts (ALBA) and at the Saint Joseph University (USJ) in Beirut and is a public art consultant for several institutions. Her recent projects include “We hesitated between arrangements, modulations and manoeuvres’’ with Caline Aoun, Charbel- joseph H.Boutros and Stéphanie Saadé, MINUS 5, Beirut / “Postponed Noon” with Raed Yassin, Vitrine Gallery, London, / “Egchi Memeg; sour tits and other displacements’’ with Laure de Selys, French Institute Beirut / “POURQUOI MOI” with Emmanuelle Raynaut, Friche Belle de Mai, Marseille.

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