Installation performance by Tania El Khoury
In collaboration with Ziad Abu-Rish
On a night with a sudden electricity outage in their Beirut neighbourhood, the artist and her historian husband discussed the history of power cuts in Lebanon. Born during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), the artist had grown up with the understanding that the problem with electricity in Lebanon began during the war. The historian, however, recalled finding a government document dated 1952 that announced scheduled electricity outages across the city of Beirut.The two decided to research the history of power outages in Lebanon, delving into intersection between public utilities infrastructure, people’s relationship to the state, and the various popular mobilizations to shape both.
In time, they reach as far back as the introduction of electricity in Beirut before it was even possible to imagine a Lebanese state. In space, they collect documents across the country and beyond its borders, visiting the archives of colonial powers: Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
What they find is a transnational story that locates electricity at the intersection of colonial legacies, the machinations of political and economic elites, and everyday acts of resistance, survival, and sabotage.