Artes Mundi 7 questionnaire: Lamia Joreige

As one of the shortlisted artists for the Artes Mundi 7 prize, the Lebanese artist answers our brief questionnaire

By ArtReview

Lamia Joreige, Under-Writing Beirut – Mathaf (detail), 2013, sculpture, prints, video, photographs, book, silkscreen. Courtesy the artist and Taymour Granhe Gallery, New York Lamia Joreige, Still from And the living is easy, 2014, video, 75 minutes. © Lamia Joreige

ARTREVIEW: As one of six shortlisted artists for Artes Mundi 7, you're showing at Cardiff's Chapter, alongside Nástio Mosquito and Bedwyr Williams. Could you tell us a bit more about your project and what form it takes?

LAMIA JOREIGE: I’m presenting two multimedia installations, Under Writing Beirut – Mathaf (Museum) and Under Writing Beirut – Nahr (the River). Both are part of an ongoing project, investigating various locations within Beirut’s present, which are in turn exhumed, reinterpreted, and reanimated.

AR: Artes Mundi aims to support ‘contemporary visual artists who engage with the human condition, social reality and lived experience’. How do you feel your work relates to that definition?

LJ: My work is grounded in the recent socio-political context of Lebanon, it reflects on the relationship between individual stories and the collective history, exploring narratives on the Lebanese wars and its aftermath in Beirut. My latest piece in Artes Mundi, After the River, engages in the social history of Beirut’s river and the current gentrification around it.

AR: Making work which reflects society as it is today can involve some of its most difficult aspects. What role do you think art should or could play in better highlighting or understanding these issues?

LJ: Art is a critical tool, which can propose alternative, subversive ways of thinking; in that sense it is the territory for politics. Also, even if it cannot prevent the worse from happening, it can at least bear witness and shed some light on certain events that maybe be concealed.

AR: What has the experience been like to be in a group exhibition such as Artes Mundi? Do you feel particular connections with the other artist’s practices? And what do you think could emerge from this experience.

LJ: I felt I was in the right place as, although everyone’s approach is slightly different, I had a nice connection with everyone. Some of the artists I already knew and respected very much, and was happy to discover and meet artists I hadn’t.

AR: Artes Mundi is the largest monetary prize in the UK, offering £40,000 to the winner. Should you win, how do you plan on using the prize money? Do you have a particular project that you would like to use it to realise?

LJ: I have no idea! I’ve been trying to think about it, but I’m deliberately not thinking of an answer. I have projects lined up for the next five years or more, so what to do with the prize money shouldn’t be a problem.

ArtReview is media partner to Artes Mundi 7. The winner will be awarded on 26 January at a ceremony in Cardiff. The prize exhibition runs at at National Museum Cardiff and Chapter, Cardiff, through 26 February