02_Attractive Deception 

Students: Elv Wanyi Mai, Nesma Mohammed & Clyde Overton

Attractive Deception is an exhibition that consists of three installations that narrate a story of different aspects of the conflict and control in Nijmeh Square. From between the time of 1914 to 1933, ending by reflecting on the square today. The installations are the following:

  • Lisan Al-Hal / A Blank City
  • سيافيت Sayavet
  • The Deaf Walls

This exhibition begins its story with the domination of the French, continuing with how the old Ottoman architecture fought back and saved some of its elements. To the Arabised colonial architecture of the parliament and its architect Altonian, and ending in the present, on how that parliament is the source of control, life, and death of the square.

“I don’t need fiction in my work as the truth is more fictional”                - Rayyane Tabet

This semester our group began by studying Rayyane Tabet, a Lebanese artist based in Beirut. Through his projects and history we were able to have a deep understanding of his work and unpack his methodologies. Demonstrating this by investigating and presenting our chosen crime against the public.

By following Rayyane’s methodology in creating a physical installation, we were introduced to the replica theory. Where we begin to reflect in our models and narrative. We believe that retelling the stories is a replica of the truth, as we add to it and may also take away from it. This transcends to our fascination in how Nijmeh Square was treated through its design, demolition, and reconstruction, through images of the time, reflecting on the events of the space itself.

How the truth of the historic events begins to become a fictional narrative.

The replica introduces the generation of novel insights about the model’s significance and possibilities.


A disillusionment by the new authorities where a fresh start is provided for the people of Beirut. A new centre for the heart of the people, where the new is rebirthed and imprinted into the city forever. A falsification of order through established coordinates of the city from a foreign constructed oligarchy.

As was written in "Lisan El Hal" newspaper, No. 7450, dated January 22nd, 1914:

A Beiruti company was formed to demolish the old city, from the port to the upholsters market, to Alsoor, to Bab Aldarka, and to the port, so that Beirut would have its markets on a European pattern with the breadth of roads and sidewalks. Leaving me as a semi-destroyed centre, fragmented with an unstructured urban fabric, and a city that had lost its identity.

Our installation consists of an empty slate containing the coordinated grid where the Ottoman city centre was destroyed to become Nijmeh square later. It represents how the French demolished the Ottoman empire for them to have a blank canvas where they can draw their own domination and culture.

SAYAVET  سيافيت

Today I’m being peeled off exposed and bare. Fragments of my old city lies within me.

A conflict of Ottoman and French, an undecided identity and crisis will always be a part of me. The construction of my refined and purified formation provided by the French oligarchy.

“It is a story of resistance, of a struggle to combat the obliteration of identity and civilization. Not only that, but a story of deception! Did they really come to lead me to the light and independence! Or did they come to seize all that I own and erase my history and memory!”

Nijmeh Square was built to simulate the Parisian square in France, but was never completed. The old city did not give up, even if torn by streets and new layouts, was still able to preserve some of its heritage through preserving several places of worship in Nijmeh Square.

The deception of the French mandate which turned into forced colonialism. Turned against them when they assigned the famous Lebanese architect Mardiros Altounian to design the parliament house in a French architectural style. Yet he fought back saving the Ottoman heritage by combining a mixture of Ottoman and French style.

The architectural elements dance in harmony and contradiction to tell the story of the resistance of Altounian and the architectural fabric of the city itself. Is it really about the beauty of the Arabised colonised architecture? Or is it holding inside a hidden tension, resistance and deception.

This installation is a story of resistance to keep the old city elements. The use of architectural elements from the front of the parliament house shows the conflict between the colonialism of the French and the resistance of the city and Altounian. Using wood fragments in the arch to show the Ottoman materials and forms. While using concrete as the French were the first to introduce concrete to Beirut.

It is called “Sayavet”, an Arabic Lebanese word from a French origin that shows a different form of colonialism. The word translates to save, to show what has been saved in Nejmeh square.

It is called “Sayavet”, an Arabic Lebanese word from a French origin that shows a different form of colonialism. The word translates to save, to show what has been saved in Nejmeh square.


My walls have been peeled back by the people of my home. The materiality of my corrupted core juxtaposes with the polished and refined exterior that is shown to the people. The corruption that lies inside me has matured and grown to a monster in itself. Over time the authority has overtaken my sense of balance empowerment which has resulted in a heightened control and domination.

The parliament building has become an integral part of Lebanese heritage and architecture. A monument to Lebanese democracy, it was a political symbol of the French mandate. But over time has transformed into an illusion of its own death.

Where the monolithic structure has extruded itself and taken the path of over control. Reflecting the oligarchy that it so desired to break away from. Where exploring within itself the corruption and despair have flourished against the people of Lebanon. Separating and ignoring. Hiding behind the monolithic walls. The loss of trust in the establishment has broken the system further, developing deeper into the illusion.

Many wall barriers have been erected to add another layer against its people, becoming deaf to the people’s needs. An endless consignment of security forces on patrol as if the Parliament which was designed by Altounian, has become a political fortress for today.

This installation is an illusion of the parliament, revealing what’s inside. Where it is the main reason for life and death in Nijmeh square, as the parliament was the beginning of everything. The walls of the building are exposed and reveal the deception and corruption through an assortment of materiality. Where the building form is extruded to hide away from the voices of the people of Lebanon.

                        BEHIND THE SCENES

By showing behind the scenes, we can reveal the methodology Rayyane Tabet uses in producing his works at a 1:1 scale with the real sizes of the objects. While using the screen as a medium, giving the illusion of a 1:1 is critical in achieving this format. Moreover, it additionally gives a larger experience of the models and objects.

These perspectives on the models rests on the intuitive idea that a model unites different realities in a complex way. That goes beyond the obvious interlinking of the reality of the model as a concrete and materialistic object but simultaneously is the reality that the model denotes on the other; resolving the human imagination, which is given flexibility by the model’s abstraction.

Creating the intimacy and relationship between the people and the object. The spatial creates a platform to create a new narrative from themselves with the object. By choosing different textures and spatial environments to highlight the materiality relationship between the environment and the models and the models themselves.

The new narrative becomes a fictional truth.

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