Your forthcoming work is part of the larger project 100 Years of Now: Does it suggest that by looking at the arabophone countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region we can shed some light on the complex transformations of the 20th century?

I am specifically looking at Lebanon, but I wouldn’t say that I am talking about my country as an exemplary case for what’s going on in the world today. Everything is intertwined, in the region and beyond. And that’s what I’m interested in. But I am simply looking from a Lebanese perspective. Historically, there is an obvious link between the Ottoman Empire and contemporary Lebanon. Lebanon was part of the empire for hundreds of years. It was a region and later a country, which was marked by invasions, armies going in and out, various countries controlling it. So in a sense, Lebanon is still searching for its identity. Something that actually I don’t consider a problem: each country or community is constantly struggling for self-definition. Unfortunately, in Lebanon though, we can’t agree or focus on a general direction that we’re aiming at together—neither as political citizens nor as citizens who are identified by their religion. Especially in these days, where we have a Lebanese political party that is represented in government and society, and that is also engaged in a war outside the country. This puts the country in a new situation. And I think that is a shifting point in the history of Lebanon that we cannot ignore.

Your work is titled How Close Could We Get to the Light and Survive? Where do you see an actual light?

Actually I have a special relation with titles. Often they have nothing to do with the content or the context. In this case though I refer to the question of what truth is and how it can be obtained. I am interested in how close you can get to this light, without harming yourself. Though we can never calculate how close we will get to a certain truth, since it is always relative. It is always ahead of us, so no one can reach it. And absolute truth doesn’t exist anyway, there are simply truths—with a small “t.” They can contradict or complement each other, which might eventually lead us to a certain form of understanding. Hopefully that will be the case in my work and with the perspectives that my friends from Lebanon will provide. And hopefully that will shed some light.

In your work you engage with the artistic form of the lecture performance. This form was very popular in Beirut during the 1990s, when artists first started getting together again after the Civil War. What still fascinates you about this approach?

In the 1990s in Beirut everything was suddenly accessible again. The east of the city opened up to the west and vice versa. And the whole of Lebanon opened up to the world after fifteen years of civil war. So, as artists, we also tried to open our paths. The non-academic lectures were an open form from which to formulate a dialogue with other disciplines, other thoughts and practices—the visual arts, performance, video, literature, also psychology or philosophy. During the war that wasn’t possible. The borders were sharply drawn. But in the 1990s, those borders started to be blurred and intermingled. I kept working with this form, because it creates dialogue and freedom. Another reason it still prevails is because of the lack of funding—obviously not just in Lebanon, since this is a general problem in the arts. But especially in Lebanon, since, as our government persistently reminds us, after fifteen years of war there is no money for the arts. The country has more important concerns.

You’re producing this specific project with HKW, a large institution. How free did you feel in terms of your curatorial vision?

First of all, I really don’t consider myself as a curator, and have no ambition to act as one in the future. I simply invited friends I know and trust; most of them are artists who I’ve worked with for a long time. They all act with a similar logic to me and the way I work, with a low budget approach and a focus on self-sufficiency. The budget that I’m working with now gives me the opportunity of bringing them all together in this constellation. And this is very important to me: to have such an artistic collaboration outside Lebanon, because this is new for us. I’m very interested to see how our works will resonate together here, how the dialogue will develop. Because none of the people I invited are representing the artistic scene in Lebanon, this is not a representative project. Rather, these friends stand for their very personal and individual perspectives.

Are there common artistic grounds? You stress that most of you have worked together for quite some time.

That’s right. Six of us have a very close relationship. We were all born in the late 1960s, we saw each other a lot in Beirut, and collaborated frequently—Walid Raad, Lina Majdalanie, Khalil Joreige, Joana Hadjithomas, Akram Zaatari, and me. Another two, Mounira Al Solh and Lawrence Abu Hamdan, belong to a slightly younger generation. And Hoda Barakat and Ahmad Beydoun are slightly older. It is an interesting mix, I hope, since we’re all connected somehow. With Ahmad Beydoun, for instance, I had a strong relationship long before we even met: he influenced me tremendously through his writings. I can also relate to works like Mounira Al Solh’s: at HKW she will reflect on her Syrian origin and her family in relation to living in Lebanon. And to Lawrence Abu Hamdan, who is interested in the political effects of listening; and of course to Hoda Barakat’s novels and her way of dealing with very sensitive sociopolitical issues. Together we will cover Lebanon’s regional relationship to its past and present time. And hopefully, we will create a kind of tapestry with complex details from and around Lebanon.