RUINS: Squat Museum Beirut

Beirut is a concrete city, full of abandoned buildings. Empty places as a result of urban speculation coexisting with a high rate of homeless people. This project is based on the reuse of this forgotten spaces, to reclaim the right of use for the people of the city.

We have worked on an exhibition with a score of twenty local and international artists. The theme of the exhibition is “Ruins”.

My work in this space has been an installation that reflects on contemporary ruins. A brick is exhibited inside a glass case like in a museum. The observation of a representative element of the current architectural system as if we could change our gaze in time and observe the present as if it were the past.

Artwork Mind Frame

Ruin: from lat. Ruīna, from ruĕre ‘to fall’.
1. f. The action of falling or destroying something.
2. f. Large loss of fortune assets.
3. f. Destruction, decay, and fall of a person, family, community, or State.
4. f. Cause of the physical or moral ruin of a person, family, community, or State.
5. f. pl. Remains of one or more ruined buildings.

The definition of the word ‘ruin’ marks a state of decay, which in some cases may seem evident when the abandonment of certain spaces is prolonged in time and natural erosion has intervened in long periods. But in contemporary society determining what is in a state of ruin is more complicated than it seems.

How can we define the moment when spaces are abandoned when they are constantly intervened? In cities, old industrial structures or vestiges of other times have become monuments and heritage sites. The ruins are restored and it becomes a tourist attraction. Urban growth constantly redefines its own landscape and invades rural territory. The apparently abandoned spaces do not stop receiving visits from onlookers, photography lovers, painters, or graffiti artists who leave traces of a globalized society. But it is the charm of the aesthetics of decadence that is part of the identity and expression of many people.

So at what point can we currently define a state of ruin, if ruin is also part of the construction process? Culture changes and architecture redefines the landscape. Either by simple changes of interests between different generations or because new power dynamics are imposed. We can speak about the reused places or devastating territories by wars that are rebuilt. But is the ruin everything that is in the process of decay or is it everything in a state of reconstruction?

The most interesting and profound is what the contemplation of the ruins provokes in us. In how it leads us to face our past and, consequently, to question the value of our existence.

Through the ruins, it is proposed to generate a collective and heterogeneous narration. A story that is told through real experiences, texts, drawings, or paintings. Different visions and languages are composing a collective perspective of the ruins that we materialize as interventions in abandoned spaces. We occupied private spaces that are abandoned buildings and architectures to start creating new exhibitions as free public spaces.

The squat museum project is an exhibition series in abandoned buildings. Based on the reuse of empty private spaces, we reclaim people’s right to use these places. The main theme of the exhibition series is Ruins.