Waste not your tears

Full title:
"Waste not your tears (Fellow Lebanese) for they are the Solution!"

A bio-mechanical incubator of “National Unity”?

Structured by octopus-like extensions, this installation relates to the distillation of impurities or “waste,” more precisely, the wastefulness of tears. Tears are not romanticized, although they form the main essence of the somewhat monstrous device, without which it would not operate. The fluid subtlety of tears in their ephemeral nature and transparency is juxtaposed against the solidity of corrugated metal and coloured cables. Invisible alchemy is combined with the material stuff of architecture.

Playing on the byproducts of man’s relationship to nature and the sociopolitical environment with recycling and scientifically preventive cures, different categories of tears related to the Lebanese condition(s) are reprocessed by this bio-mechanical contraption to produce the National Unity Vaccine Solution, a provocative jab at the continuous quest for a unified Lebanese government. The injunction on this manmade machine: “Waste not your tears (fellow Lebanese) for they are the Solution,” becomes mocking and provocative, to say the least.

Conceived and constructed by Christophe Katrib and Yasmina Raffoul, the apparatus was built during a time of limited mobility, soon after escalating tensions led to a siege of the airport and violent clashes between opposing Lebanese parties and militias, which began on May 7th 2008. And yet it is an instrument that reaches out with ten tentacles, its body comprising discarded components from garbage dumps. These appendages are enclosed and bounded by plastic bottles, water containers, glass jars, and perfume bottles converging into tubes of the primary colours red, blue, and yellow, as well as the more neutral tones of grey and transparency. 

Each shade is represented twice, and yet none of the extremities are the same in size or composition, with the “Tears of Civil War,” labeled on a mere, empty perfume bottle, as if to designate the evaporation, or amnesiac disappearing of that history, tears that dried too quickly, and insignificant in size in comparison to a larger water container labeled as “Tears of SSBTA (semi-seasonal burnt tire allergy),” a scathingly humorous remark about the constant strikes, burning of tires, and closing of roads plaguing the country. All the bottles and jars are in vertical position except for the one representing “Tears of July 2006,” when the Israeli army launched its brutal attack, whereby the bottle juts out at an angle, like a rocket-propelled missile. 

Despite the sharpness and sarcasm of these markers, not to mention the forbidding nature of the actual creature-like installation, there is something to be said for the melancholy, and hope it evokes, for a “solution,” that all the different colored tubes of discharging tears, or positions/standpoints of suffering lead to, even if it is cynically named the “National Unity Vaccine Solution.” This chemical remedy, encapsulated in an olive oil jar, emerges from a green pipe, almost like the missing cedar from the central body of the installation, a cylindrical military barrel, painted in the form of a bleeding Lebanese flag. With descriptions ranging from the amusing to the forlorn, from tears of “SDiMi (socio-demographically induced marriage impossibility),” “occasional and apolitical joy,” “tears of mother nature,” “tears of miscellaneous origins,” to “tears of collateral and original attack victims (bombs, bullets, heart attack and more), “tears of socio-political and national frustration,” and “tears of airport (closing down, re-opening, farewells, separation, reunion, exile, emigration,” there is hope and there are dreams when tearful residues are represented as the only aftermath of violence.

(Text by Nadine Khalil)