Zeina Maasri

Born (1973) in Lebanon. She lives and works in Beirut. She is Associate Professor of Graphic Design at the American University of Beirut and a practicing independent graphic designer. She is author of Off the Wall: Political Posters of the Lebanese Civil War (London: I.B.Tauris, 2009). In conjunction with this study, she curated an exhibition of political posters entitled Signs of Conflict in 2008 within the framework of Beirut’s Homeworks 4 (a forum of cultural practices). A section of this exhibition titled “Graphic Chronologies” was on display at the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo in Sevilla as part of the exhibition Without Reality there is No Utopia in 2011 and also took part in the 11th International Istanbul Biennial in 2009. Zeina Maasri edited and art directed, with Anja Lutz, Greetings From Beirut (Berlin: Shift!, 2003). She also co-edited and designed Mapping Sitting: On Portraiture and Photography (Beirut: Arab Image Foundation and Mind the Gap, 2002). She was art director and member of the editorial board of Zawaya, a periodical on emerging cultural production in the Arab World (Beirut, 2001-2007).

 

Signs of Conflict traces the deployment of political discourse in visual culture characteristic of Lebanon’s wartime conflict(s). The project examines the political posters that were produced by the various warring factions, political parties and movements in Lebanon between 1975 and 1990. It is premised upon the idea that the posters unfold the narratives of the prevailing political conflicts while providing insights onto modern Arab visual culture.
Lebanon’s civil war is a complex case where local socio-economic and sectarian struggles, linked with regional politics, characterized political discourses and distinguished the numerous warring factions. That, in turn, was materialized in the production of an equally complex plethora of political posters, with diverse iconography and conflicting significations, as well as distinct aesthetic practices.

Signs of Conflict raises questions about the political poster’s nature of function in the public domain, especially in the context of civil war. It proposes a reading of Lebanon’s political posters as symbolic sites of a complex discursive struggle. Thus, the project is interested in how these posters visually articulate the discourses, desires, fears and collective imaginaries pertinent to the antagonistic political communities under formation and transformation during wartime.

 

Between Belonging and Martyrdom

This new display (for the 3rd Thessaloniki Biennale) brings together two persistent issues in Lebanon’s wartime posters: Belonging and Martyrdom. While posters of the former articulate the ideological motivations of the warring factions -competing discourses and antagonistic imaginaries of the nation, the community and the threatening enemy- martyr posters on the other hand proclaim that these imaginaries were very “real” to those who died in their cause. Each poster repeatedly asserts the death of a person: you see the face, read the name, date of birth and passing away.

 

Zeina Maasri

 

 

The Signs of Conflict exhibition was initially produced within the framework of Home works IV Beirut 2008.
The exhibition is based on a published study by the same author titled Off the Wall: Political Posters of the Lebanese Civil War (London: I.B.Tauris, 2009).
Research on this project was supported with a grant from the American University of Beirut.

For more information about the project and the poster archive please visit www.signsofconflict.com

Photos

Youssef Abdelkeh, 60th anniversary 1924–1984, Lebanese Communist Party, 1984, 70 x 49 cm

Untitled (12th Istanbul Biennial), 2011 Biennale de Lyon