The Lebanese film-makers and artists Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (1969, Beirut) interweave thematic, conceptual and formal links through photographs, video installations, fictional films and documentaries. Self-taught, they became filmmakers and artists through necessity in the wake of the Lebanese civil wars and consider themselves as researchers. Their very personal oeuvre, based on their various encounters with people, has led them to explore the realm of the visible and of absence, leading to a back-and-forth between life and fiction. For more than fifteen years, their films and artworks, created using personal and political documents, develop narratives out of stories kept secret in the face of the prevailing history. The investigative process they adopt, together with their exploration of geographical and personal territory, endows their work with a particular aesthetic.
Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige’s work is constructed around the production of types of knowledge, the rewriting of history, construction of imaginaries, and also around contemporary modes of narration. They draw on their experience of their own country while going beyond its frontiers.
The films and artworks of Hadjithomas and Joreige have been collected by private and public institutions and museums around the world, including the Centre Pompidou and Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris; the Victoria & Albert Museum and British Museum in London; the Guggenheim in New York and the Sharjah Art Foundation in Sharjah, as well as many biennales including Istanbul, Lyon, Sharjah, Kochi, Gwangju, Yinchuan, Venice and the Triennale in Paris. In 2017 they were awarded the Marcel Duchamp Prize, after exhibiting the project Unconformities at the Centre Pompidou.

Khalil Joreige and Joana Hadjithomas present their most recent project, ‘Unconformities,’ which like their video ‘Waiting for the Barbarians,’ shown in the exhibition and inspired by the eponymous poem by Constantine Cavafy works on temporalities and confronts the idea of the city in relation to its complex histories of inhabitation. They create artworks derived from drilling cores, which reveal and fix the subterranean worlds of Paris, Athens and Beirut: three cities omnipresent in their personal imaginary. Recovered from the construction sites that discard them after use, these core samples bare their "unconformities" - temporal ruptures, natural disasters, geological movements - in full view, revealing construction as a cyclical process; the defining feature of civilizations past and present. History appears not as layers but as actions, a kind of palimpsest mixing epochs and civilizations. These poetic recompositions question the dominant forms of narrating and representing history, but also address debates around the Anthropocene. Hadjithomas and Joreige presented Unconformities at the Centre Pompidou in Paris after their nomination for the Marcel Duchamp Prize, which they won.

Artistic proposition

Waiting for the Barbarians

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?
The barbarians are due here today.
Why isn’t anything happening in the senate?
Why do the senators sit there without legislating?
Because the barbarians are coming today.
What laws can the senators make now?
Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.

Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting at the city’s main gate
on his throne, in state, wearing the crown?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and the emperor is waiting to receive their leader.
He has even prepared a scroll to give him,
replete with titles, with imposing names.

Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
and rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and things like that dazzle the barbarians.

Why don’t our distinguished orators come forward as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.

Why this sudden restlessness, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home so lost in thought?

Because night has fallen and the barbarians have not come.
And some who have just returned from the border say
there are no barbarians any longer.

And now, what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
They were, those people, a kind of solution.

In today’s troubled times of war, recessions and loss of ideals, Contantine Cavafy’s voice through his poem “Waiting for the Barbarians” becomes more relevant than ever, echoing very strongly, resonating in endlessly disintegrating societies, in places where the unexpected always happen and where there is nothing but desire and poetry to counter violence and power.
Different instants mix and mingle, producing impossible images and evoking supernatural visions. Photography becomes animated by the effect of superimposition, as if time, space and movement were entangled, creating a tension between stillness and motion. Temporalities become disrupted, nature is reversed and many suns appear on multiplied horizons.

Joana Hadjithomas et Khalil Joreige