There are two definitions of the word “roof”: one which translates into an envelope of a building, protecting the place from threatening conditions, the second being the open space that gives onto the outside world from the top of a building. In this exhibition, Dana Qaddah’s work oscillates between these two definitions where their interpretation of the first, helps us understand how we could reach the second as an attempt to define “l’état” or the state. Looking at the Lebanese state amidst the current socio economic crisis, one could imagine it as a building without a roof where its concierges have destroyed the roof themselves, thus eliminating any possibility of being protected from outer space. It is within this space, the Roof d’état, that Dana’s sculptures exist as they stand strongly despite the fragility of their suspension.
In their process, they use plastic as a material to build abstract devices and it is within these forms that one could see through. To see through these sculptures is to understand the construction of a crisis where plastic is the material with which the economic infrastructure is built. Considering the 450 years that plastic takes to decompose, one thinks of toxicity and how all lives living under this Lebanese roof are now contaminated, including mine.
Dana also relies on video documentation as an attempt to translate the conditions that emerge on this roof and within the realm of the current social landscape. They direct their focus towards large water tanks, reflecting on the water-supply system in Beirut that operates at the frontline of water scarcity as a reality, following ongoing corrupt business practices. Dana’s photographs become self-contained in ways which portray the passing of time through the shadow that the light creates when touching their sculptures, and where the creativity behind their abstraction feels like a suggested survival kit for a time of crisis. Still plastic, the containers are no less than a representation of a roof d’état, corruption circulating through it as fluidly as water.
Accompanying Text by Joyce Joumaa
These photographs were captured on a rooftop studio in Beirut, at sunset, between July and August 2019. The sculptures have since been disassembled, and the sun has since set on Lebanon as we know it.
Using the vernacular of urban visual culture in Lebanon, the works reflect on the deteriorating civil conditions in urban centres at a time which foreshadowed the failure of the state. Since the October 17, 2019 Revolution, Lebanon has been caught in an economical and political deadlock, with a free-falling economy resulting from decades of state mismanagement, the pandemic, and the tragic loss suffered in the August 4 explosion. With a currency that has lost 90% of its value, many Lebanese people are finding essential goods like gas, water, bread and electricity, to be a luxury.
The sculptural compositions documented through photography are speculative of a crisis on the environmental, economical and political fronts. Found objects – like plastic gallons, commonly used to fill water for households or buy gas on the black market nowadays, construction tape, reminiscent of the privatization and development of most Lebanese public property, and local produce containers presented against the political backdrop of Lebanon’s 80% rate of import of goods – are activated and photographed as a means to translate socioeconomic commentary. Although these works no longer physically exist, their photographs become the index of a time preceding a turning point in Lebanon’s contemporary history. A projected video work focuses on stills of water tanks on neighbouring rooftops which are a display of corruption, existing out of the necessity to store water purchased from privatized companies due to insufficient state supply.