American University of Beirut

The 1990s – Jayce Salloum: كان يا ما كان There Was and There Was Not [redux/fragments]

September 17 - December 30, 2015
AUB Byblos Bank Art Gallery​


Jayce Salloum’s installation كان يا ما كان There Was and There Was Not [redux/fragments] is an opportunity to take a step back and look at the 1990s. The photographs, newspaper clips, scholarly and other texts, books, postcards, Polaroid shots, and videos – which Salloum, a Canadian-born artist of Lebanese parentage, collected, made, or recorded during his time in the Middle East in the late 1980s and early 1990s – compose one large document, which we consider here as a record of the 1990s.

This exhibition is a chance to revisit the early days of an art historical period which we still inhabit. The Lebanese Civil War (1975-1989) has not only been a major point of historical reference but also an art historical threshold. The end of the war marked a radical historical shift, launching not only new economic and political forces and alliances but also artistic idioms, art institutions and a number of Lebanese artists into the orbit of the global art world. The 1990s also opened up a new art historical period known as “Lebanese contemporary art.”

How does the work of Jayce Salloum relate to questions of the representation of Lebanon, Arab identity, memory and wars? Chronologically, at least, the work comes as an early example of an art practice in whose preoccupation with the theme of “Lebanon” it deals with the conditions and limits of representation. In its profuse form, in its abundant incorporation of printed, written, recorded documents and records on various topics and themes and in different media and genres, Kan Ya Ma Kan appears as a primeval forest of early Lebanese contemporary art—an Urwald in which one recognizes different strategies of sifting, composing and relating to documents, or diverse modes and strategies of representation. This 1990s piece – which we chose from the artist’s extensive body of work – is an invitation, and hopefully a point of departure to begin a process of historicization of Lebanese “contemporary art.”

Octavian Esanu
Curator AUB Art Galleries

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