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(c) The Mosaic Rooms

Pascal Hachem: This show has a long title I don’t recall anymore

8 October 2017 Ekin Kurtdarcan

The Mosaic Rooms, a non-profit art gallery and bookshop dedicated to supporting and promoting contemporary Arab culture in London, are hosting the first solo exhibition by Lebanese artist Pascal Hachem. Hachem explores the intersections between the instability of memory and the changing face of his home city Beirut.

Lebanese artist Pascal Hachem’s newest exhibition This show has a long title I don’t recall anymore at the Mosaic Rooms is an exploration of the act of remembering, based on the artist’s experiences of his city, Beirut. Through a series of sculptural installations, Hachem, whose work has been shown in Lebanon, Tunisia, Taiwan and Italy, interrogates the processes of individual and collective memory in a contemporary context where instability, change and fragmentation prevail in cities undergoing sociopolitical pressures.
 
Hachem’s exhibition is not the first exhibition at the Mosaic Rooms to reflect on the theme of memory and remembering. The gallery, which is a London-based non-profit organisation aiming to promote contemporary culture from and about the Arab world, exhibited the works of five Palestinian artists between January and March 2017 under the title Pattern Recognition, where the idea of repetition was explored in relation to memory, fragmentation and many other concepts.  In a similar vein, the cruciality of this theme to the geography is evident in Hachem’s work, where everyday household items and pieces of clothing are refigured and displaced in public settings, creating a dialogue between the individual and his environment.
 
Entering the gallery, the spectator is struck by the minimal set up; the sculptures are distributed around the rooms, appearing almost isolated, and inviting the viewers to be fully aware of their surroundings and to study each piece in detail. The set up also seems to reveal the essence of the whole experience, where an attempt to connect and make sense of the individual pieces demonstrates the ambiguity of one’s perception of their environment during the process of remembering. This is especially emphasised in the piece left under, where nine wooden brushes connected to metal structures and a motor scrape up and down the wall in slow motion to wear the paint off. As the brushes leave neat trails on the surface, the repetitive sound of the scraping becomes hypnotic, making the spectator both fully concentrate on the action while at the same time making them forget the initial position of the objects. As minimal effects become gradually visible, the spectator experiences the difficulty of recovering traces of meaning when faced with continuous change.


left under (2017). Pascal Hachem. Wooden brushes, metal structures, step motor and electrical board. Photograph by Andy Stagg, image courtesy of The Mosaic Rooms.
 
The second set of installations further highlight the relationship between the individual and their community, where Hachem combines personal objects such as eyeglasses with pieces of stone and gravel - materials often found near construction sites. In his set of sculptures titled tears, Hachem places clusters of stone and tiles collected from demolished houses on different eyeglasses, with each sculpture alternating the position of the stones. These sculptures appear to be a peculiar lamentation for the destroyed houses and structures in rapidly transforming cities, the title and the eyeglasses remind the viewer of the struggles of those trying to recover the fragments and traces of past forms. Furthermore, in back to square one, where two irons connected to a motor move opposite directions to flatten a large pile of flour, the viewer sees an equilibrium in which the irons go over the same area repeatedly while creating the possibility of surface disruption without ever doing so.
 
Lastly, perhaps the most striking installation of the exhibit is the stone in my pocket, where nine pairs of trousers are suspended from the wall over a series of mirrors, with a large stone suspended below the right leg of each pair. The stones, and in return the legs of the trousers are continuously pulled up by the motor above. At a certain height, the stone is released, falling on the mirror below. The repeated action breaks the glass at a certain point, however the stone is quickly pulled up afterwards to its original position, leaving no traces of its course. The repetitive action demonstrates the elusive relationship between cause and effect, and gives the act of remembering an almost Sisyphean quality. The number of trousers could suggest the collective effort in retrieving meaning from this cycle of endless recovery, where the cause is continually reset as the effect remains.


the stone in my pocket (2017). Trousers, stones, metal cast of stone, mirrors, metal cables, metal structures, step motor and electrical board. Pascal Hachem. Photograph by Andy Stagg, image courtesy of The Mosaic Rooms.
 
This show has a long title I don’t recall anymore is very much a spectator-oriented work, both distancing the viewers from their surroundings and inviting them to think about the creation of meaning. Through these strange encounters, Hachem seems to question whether meaning making lies entirely in the process rather than the individual elements creating the whole. It is an exhibition worth seeing for those interested in challenging themselves to be aware of the mental processes behind perceiving changes in one’s perception and environment.
 
Pascal Hachem: This show has a long title I don’t recall anymore is on at The Mosaic Rooms 226 Cromwell Road, London SW5 0SW until the 2nd December.  Entrance is free.
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