In the present atmosphere of a fiercely power struggle for existence, award-winning Lebanese film director and photographer Philippe Aractingi was left questioning his sense of belonging to his beloved Beirut. The Goddess like city that has endured vicious cycles of wars, death, rebirth, fear, hatred and unconditional love. Ephemeral dualities that have kept Beirut and her identity in constant states of flux.
During the Lebanese civil war, whilst fearing the loss of his admired Beirut, Aractingi began photographing the chilling narratives of a war-torn city. He moved to Paris in 1989 to only fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a renowned film director. He came back to Lebanon in 2001 and found himself questioning his belonging to a city that has become almost unrecognizable. Over the years, Aractingi released over fifty documentaries and four award-winning long feature films which are recognized internationally.
Photography is an intimate practice for Aractingi, who uses the medium to capture the fragile, fragmented, and transitory moments that life offers. His photographs have been kept hidden from the public eye because photography brings out the artist in him, a trait he has been trying to shy away from. In 2010, he released his first exhibition in Paris titled ’Night in Beirut’.
In September 2018, with the encouragement of Nadine Zaccour the exhibition producer, and curator Marine Bougaran, Aractingi released his second exhibition ‘Obsessions’. A body of work that explores the foundations of a cultural and historical reality shaped by the co-existing development of societies’ memory and identity.
Mounted on the concrete walls of 3Beirut, sixty-two photographs were on display. Divided into four sections, each group represented a storyline from the city’s history. Pictures of sandbag walls tell a tale of a fragmented Beirut in turmoil. The sharp and vibrant streets captured at night portray the silence of the bustling city. The colorful, textured reflections depict the shadows of a distraught society. Lastly, the candid images of the party girls wandering the streets express the longing to hold on to Beirut that keeps slipping away.
Highlighting the transformation of Beirut over a hundred years, Aractingi obtained archival footage from the 1920s and used footage from his personal archives to create a triptych video installation that runs simultaneously. From the popular old souks to the Martyrs’ square in the heart of the city, these videos highlight the alteration the city has undergone. ’Obsessions’ speaks to a multitude of generations who are still affected by the aftermath of the lands recent history. It is a conceptual map of the self where the past, present and future transverse.