Marwan Rechmaoui is a conceptual sculptor who works with concrete, metal, found materials, textile, rubber and wax. Throughout his career he has produced work related to, or based on, the sociogeographics of cities, often focusing on Beirut: Beirut Caoutchouc which sits in the collection of Tate Modern, London, is a rubber map of the city. Another major work entitled Blazon delves into the oral and written history of the city: it proposes a shield for each neighborhood of Beirut and flags for each street or monument, creating a chessboard of leaders and bannermen. Another ongoing series includes models of abandoned, unfinished or repurposed buildings. Monument for the Living for example is a concrete cast of a building meant to become a commercial center in the 70s, which turned into a military base later on.
In the exhibition in Hamburg The Beirut Coast, a 6 m long coastline of the Lebanese capital is made of concrete, copper and beeswax.
Following the same aerial-view logic, and experimenting with the same materials, a series of works dissects satellite imagery of Arab cities. These google maps aerial views of Arab capitals are pixelated grids, which focus on the main landmarks, streets, and neighborhoods.
The show also presents a series of three concrete sculptures that celebrate the work of Oscar Niemeyer. The legendary Brazilian architect had conceived in the 1960s a fair and leisure park-city in Tripoli, a town in North Lebanon, that covers a surface of 600,000 square meters, and that is in danger of being destroyed. For one of the sculptures, representing the Experimental Theatre building, Rechmaoui reproduces the concrete dome in resin, opening to the viewer’s eye a building that is completely closed in reality. By rendering the architecture visible, the artist comments on the opacity of bureaucratic processes in Lebanon, that allow corruption to keep public spaces closed to visitors. Other works from this series include a helipad and a pyramid, three of fifteen pavilions that currently exist in limbo. Carrying the weight of history, they are actually frozen in time.
Through his work, Rechmaoui mirrors the socio-political structure and complex multi-cultural history of the Arab world; and reflects on themes of urbanization and contemporary social and behavioral demographics. In lieu of mapping urban spaces, the artist does not view the city according to typical urban planning standards, instead he points to socio-political affiliations and etymological histories from each community in the city.