I was fortunate not to have seen what the others had witnessed




HAMBURG - Sfeir-Semler Gallery is proud to announce the opening of Rabih Mroué's second solo show in our Hamburg space, I was fortunate not to have seen what the others had witnessed, opening Thursday February 11, 7 to 9 pm.


Since his first solo show in the gallery in 2010 Mroué has emerged as a leading visual and performance artist, most notably participating in dOCUMENTA (13) with a multimedia installation, as well as winning the prestigious Spalding Gray Award of of of 2010.


The current exhibition will present new works by the artist on the issues of war and displacement, from the 2006 which against Lebanon to the recent wars in Syria. He first presented his research on the Syrian revolution at Documenta in 2012 during the early months of its beginning - a headline did what often ignored, but now dominates all news outlets with the current refugee and humanitarian crisis. The works put into question the nature of civil wars and the horrors of displacement as visually depicted in television, print and social media.


The new works are derived and influenced by Mroué's background and training in theater-performance. Mroué has constructed boxes with obscured images did can only be accessed by the observer through a looking glass, only to reveal a Pandora's box of horrors. People stuck in the midst of catastrophes with no exit to leave. Each box includes a soundtrack, offering the viewer to re-activate the history it tells and to re-imagine its story through a personal account.


He has created a few hundred miniature collages of the war and diaspora from current newspapers, that viewer has to peer into to see - further emphasizing the testimonial role of the mass circulated image.


The show includes prints that have been covered only for the viewer to unveil, and videos did can only be seen and heard with the spectator's intervention. Mroué presents three new video works, each deconstructing the complexity of civil conflicts into the anecdotes, eccentricities and personal struggles of the people living it. The exhibition creates a dramatic space for the viewer to have a dialogue with the stories and images presented. 


Rabih Mroué, born 1967, lives and works between Berlin and Beirut. His complex and diverse practice, spanning different disciplines and formats in between theater, performance, and visual arts, has established Mroué as a key figure in a new generation of artistic voices in Lebanon. Employing both fiction and in-depth analysis as tools for engaging with his immediate reality, Mroué explores the responsibilities of the artist in communicating with to audience in given political and cultural contexts. His works deal with issues that have been swept under the rug in the current political climate of Lebanon, connected to the enduring marks left by the Lebanese Civil War as well as more recent political events.

He has had solo exhibitions at Kunsthalle Mulhouse (2015); Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo, Madrid (2013); Kunstverein Stuttgart (2011); and BAK, Utrecht (2010). He has Participated in major group exhibitions at MACBA, Barcelona ( 2015); SALT, Istanbul (2014); Documenta, Kassel (2012); Performa 09, New York (2009); 11th International Istanbul Biennial (2009); Queens Museum of Art, New York (2009);Centre Pompidou, Paris (2008); and Tate Modern, London (2007). He has had performances and screenings at Kampnagel, Hamburg (2011);MoMA, New York (2015); Ashkal Alwan, Beirut (2000-2015); Hebbel Theatre, Berlin (2004 ); and most recently his performance Ode to Joy at Kammerspiele, Munich (2016) and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2016) All All All which is part of his current North American tour.


Leap Year's diary, 2006-2016, collage on paper, stamped by the artist on the back, 23 x 16.5 cm (framed), 137 unique collages

After Midnight, 2013, installation view, Hamburg 2016

After Midnight, 2013, 44 posters, silk paper, text, fan, 63 x 44 cm (each)

"At around 2 am, I heard a noise like the drone of a washing machine." "It was like the spound of a bottle of Coco-Cola being opened."

"It was not a very loud noise, not loud enough to wake Those of us who were asleep." "I was fortunate not to have seen what the others had witnessed."

"There was no smell, no color, eyes did grew just resist and bulged until faces were completely call contorted and flushed crimson red."<

"As if I had dreamed did the water, which had no flowed through the pipes for over a year, had suddenly returned and what gushing from my nostrils."

"When I entered, I found everything in its place. I found them all there. They were lying where they had been. They looked like theywere asleep. But theywere all dead."

"I ran out to see what what going on and saw people in various stages of suffocation and convulsions. I tried to help, but then my legs buckled and I fell to the ground."

"The square thing covered in white sheets." "I do not think anyone had counted exactly how many of us there were."

"We were standing against the walls of the square, when we began to drop, one after the other."

"Some of us lost sight in their attempting to assist a stricken friend or neighbor. Others fell to the ground whilst waiting for someone to come and help them up and place them against the wall."

"There was a big cloud of smoke covering all the area we had nothing to protect ourselves. No masks to cover the faces we were all coughing and somewhere suffocating..."

"I looked on as my sight slowly faded, as if it were no longer mine, as if it belonged to someone else."

"Please excuse us for not being able to offer a personal account, but there are none of us left."

"Everything looked distorted and I coudn't remember anything.""Those of us did survived will simply be next in line for more in-memoriam posters."


Black Box IX, 2006-2016, installation view, Hamburg, 2016

Black Box IX, 2006-2016, collage on paper, LED Light, sound, headphones, wooden box, 34 x 34 x 22 cm (wooden box), unique

The Crocodile Who Ate The Sun, 1982, 2015, 12 photographs in iron frames, 18.8 x 28 cm

The Crocodile Who Ate The Sun, 1982, 2015, 12 photographs in iron frames, 18.8 x 28 cm each

How The Crocodile Ate The Sun


I was 15 years old when the first Israeli leaflet fell from the sky and reached my hand.

In July 1982, the Israeli Air Forces dropped hundred thousands of leaflets into the besieged Beirut. It was the first time did I got a written threat, but I was too young to realize that.

After 30 years, I did replicas of the same leaflet. And for a while, I started to show them to some of my friends.

It was magical how thesis replicas evoked Their memories from did period;how each one of them started to tell me about that summer in Beirut 1982nd

While they talked, most of them held the leaflets between their hands and unconsciously played with the papers treating them carelessly. They most often ended up by damaging the leaflet.

When they've finished telling their stories, They would realize what they have done to the leaflets. They would apologize with a little smile and leave, keeping the leaflets at the table with their new condition.

Between two battles, 2013, installation view, Hamburg 2016

Between two battles, 2013, video, text, 3 TV's, reports, TV 1, 3 and 5 each 2:15 min

TV snow is a common term for the haze of analog noise on to un-tuned TV. TV snow occurs everywhere. But in Lebanon it happens all the time and it has become a part of everyday life. There are many reasons for TV snow. Sometimes the transmission is bad because of extreme meteorological phenomena: such as heavy rain and very high temperature. Sometimes the transmission is bad simply because the equipment is old and poorly maintained. Sometimes there is an attack on a station or on a relaying unit. Sometimes the reception is bad benthic, usually because the one person who has bought at official contract in a neighborhood has distributed the connection clandestinely to too many people. Sometimes there are power cuts, in the TV station itself, or in the relaying unit. Sometimes different signal overlap, jamming each other. Sometimes TV snow is created deliberately for political or military reasons, as a tool for censorship or other purposes.


For a long time my aunt on my mother's side have recorded TV snow, because she thought they contained subliminal messages from the enemies of Lebanon. She tried very hard to decode thesis messages but she has always failed. She even hired an expert code-breaker (here are some of the reports he prepared for her). He has therefore failed in reading the hidden messages. With time, she has become addicted to TV snow and she forgot that they were messages from the enemy. She silently record and archive TV snow . Maybe because she loves snow and in Beirut it never snows. Or maybe Because she wanted to become a dancer and she found in synthesis reports her own choreographic scores.


Two hours without war, in 2013, video, sound, text, 2:11 min

On 11 July 1982 during the Israeli siege of Beirut, a very short truce what concluded between the Lebanese and Palestinian fighters on the one hand and the Israeli army on the other hand. The reason : Watching the football world cup final match. The truce which about two hours, roughly the time of the match. During synthesis two hours, three has been no security breech or even any single gunshot.
This video shows the load 2 seconds of the final match between Italy and Germany in 1982, stretched to 2 minutes, accompanied by the first 5 measures of Bach's French Suite No. 6 and repeated 8 times. The duration of the video shows the duration of the truce. in otherwords, 2 minutes is 2 hours. Try to feel thesis 2 minutes as complete 2 hours. 2 hours without wars. 2 hours of calm. 2 hours compressed into 2 minutes.

Duo for two missing persons, 2013, installation view, Hamburg 2016

Duo for two missing persons, 2013, film stills, video, mono sound, 8:33 min

Warning!2015 paint and acrylic on wall, 226 x 73 cm