American University of Beirut

​Face The White Cube: Interventions at the Limits of the AUB Art Galleries​

​​​​​​​​​​​​Opening date:

Thursday, May 3, 2018, 6pm
Closing date:
Friday, May 18, 2018
284B Curatorial Course
Student Projects and Locations
Face Your White Cube (2)
Main Storage Room
AUB Rose and Shaheen Saleeby Museum
Collapse the Cube
Administrative Office
AUB Rose and Shaheen Saleeby Museum
The Power of Intimacy
Outside Vitrine next to the Cafeteria
AUB Byblos Bank Art Gallery
maljaa’ (Shelter)
Outside Vitrine next to the Cafeteria
AUB Byblos Bank Art Gallery
Opening Hours:
Tuesday – Saturday (12pm – 6pm)​

Face The White Cube: Interventions at the Limits of the AUB Art Galleries

Face The White Cube! is the title of a series of mini-exhibitions developed by students during the course “Theories, Methods and Practices of Curating” (284B). Each mini-exhibition unfolds or intervenes within a space in some way adjacent to the AUB Art Galleries. The verb “face” was chosen to be interpreted broadly: as a critique of the ideology of the white cube (and its specific context at the AUB Galleries), or as a simple encounter and/or light curatorial exercise on the margins of these galleries. The particularities of display have been determined not only by material constraints (a shortage of dedicated white cube space at AUB) but also by a critical temptation to engage with the problematic of the white cube from within various borderline situations, thresholds and other transitory states within the “museistic” and curatorial discourse. Transitory spaces and states, however, were not chosen to be examined for their own sake (or for the sake, for example, of identitarian investments in various forms of marginality) but in order to better understand the convictions, conventions and constrictions of the notorious white cube. But in order for it to be able to provide “magical” services to a particular category of objects (turning them into art) the gallery desperately requires the support of various subsidiary spaces, forces and processes. 

Take the storage room. The storage room is one of the most ill-treated spaces at AUB Art galleries. The room resembles a permanent Merzbau (or what Kurt Schwitters called “A Cathedral of Erotic Misery”). Over the years it has collected memories of repressed museistic processes, practices, tools, and materials—all heaped on top of each other, or forgotten in the constant hurry to please, serve and obey the white cube. This particular space is like the Freudian unconscious of the Galleries. However here, instead of repressed instincts, guilty desires, and impulses, one stumbles across abandoned tools, materials, disinstalled artworks, fragments of installations, discarded techniques and other forgotten ingredients of museum practice. The storage “facility” has been waiting for an analyst to reveal something about this gallery’s past (from 2012 forward), and also perhaps about earlier (pre-Oedipal) times, when the building was used for other purposes. Further, if the storage room is the repressed unconscious, the administrative office of AUB Art Galleries is its conscious, constituting the immediate awareness and sense-certainty in the work of the galleries. It is the space from which most rational decisions are made on a daily basis; where logical and well-calculated operations (payments, requisitions, promotions, advertising) materialize into the program of exhibitions and events.  

The students in the 284B class have formulated a particular curatorial response to each of the “adjacent” spaces they have chosen. While Andrea Comair chose the storage room, Louai Kaakani occupied the office of the administrative officer at the Rose and Shaheen Saleeby Museum. Both projects engage very closely with the problematic of the white cube, and each approaches it differently. Noor Tannir and Danielle Krikorian opted for the niches in the vitrines of AUB Byblos Bank Art Gallery on campus. Their projects deal more or less directly with the problematic of the art gallery, focusing instead on the discursive margins of contemporary curatorial practice, or, pursuing more personal interests and a particular way of understanding contemporary curatorship. 

Under the title “Face Your White Cube! (2)” Andrea Comair launches a series of questions: “What is it that we are facing? Are we facing the space itself with its social, historical, and economic context? Would we still be talking about the white cube there? Perhaps not, given that once we enter the gallery we agree to see its pristine white placelessness, and will even agree that the white cube is invisible until told otherwise.” Louai Kaakani’s exhibition-intervention entitled “Collapse the Cube” aims at “breaking” the walls of this institution in order to reveal the building’s past role and function. In addition he seeks to comprehend the role of an art gallery within the concrete context of the city of Beirut. Danielle Krikorian’s project deals less with the conditions of curatorial production than a more personal art historical interest. The mini-exhibition entitled “The Power of Intimacy” takes its point of departure from a 16th-century miniature of the Shah Abbas and Wine Boy that Krikorian believes can offer us valuable knowledge with regard to relations of power and desire. Noor Tannir’s project is entitled “maljaa’ (shelter).” The main goal of the project, which is assembled from visual material collected from the low- and middle-class households and shops of Dahieh in suburban Beirut, is to survey the visual landscape of a particular part of the city and study the process by which early religious images and modes of representation have been appropriated and recuperated for purposes of political mobilization. 
Octavian Esanu 
284B Course Instructor​

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