Art, Ecology and the Commons:
Together in Agony we Persist

Pilot Initiatives

27 August – 5 September 2021

Sin el Fil, Lebanon

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Art, Ecology and the Commons is an interdisciplinary program bringing artistic and ecological practices together in the aim of building a community on a 2,000-square-meter forest site along the Beirut River, in the suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon. Planted by theOtherDada in May 2019 as part of an urban afforestation initiative, a thriving native forest serves as host and muse. AEC seeks to harness this young forest’s interdependence and resilience to foster self-organization and recovery amidst crisis. 

There is an invisible, resilient, underground collective that exists among trees. To reach their heights, forest trees depend on a complicated web of alliances and kinship networks: they have evolved to live in cooperative, interdependent relationships not only with each other, but with millions of species of fungi and bacteria beneath the soil through which they spread and share their roots, nutrients and messages. The project brought six participants together from Lebanon and the Arab region for ten days of speculative learning and exchange from and on this young forest site in Sin el Fil, punctuated by a series of site-specific commissions, participatory interventions, we well as public and outreach activities stitched with individuals, voices, collectives and institutions who share our values and positioning vis-a-vis our communities during these times of distress. 

Whereas this theoretical and sociological interest in community-building in times of crises was sparked by the October revolution, Lebanon exists at the center of a far greater unrelenting storm of tribulations: an unresolved waste management crisis, a sharp 90% on-going depreciation of the local currency, a complex political deadlock, a rampant pandemic, and a plummeting economy exacerbated by strict Covid-19 lockdowns, were all met with the devastating Beirut Port explosion on August 4th.

Catastrophe has only since ensued, with an inevitable economic collapse pushing the country to the brink and corruption still coursing through its every vein, leaving it ill-prepared to face the global calamities also raging on; from economic uncertainty, sociological and demographic unrest, to the climate and environmental emergency.

As we face these drastic changes and impending disasters as a local and global community, the solidarity witnessed during the October revolution resurfaces and one thought comes to mind:

Can togetherness be harnessed as a practice? Can we use it to address the glaring needs of our communities, and in so doing, discuss and design alternate possibilities for our future going forward?

In collaboration with theOtherDada and in partnership with SUGi, this program is supported by the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC), Culture Resource (Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafy), the French Institute and Goethe-Institut Lebanon.