05_Curating Decay

Students: Erin Batchelor & Valentina Hernandez

Through the research and understanding of our spatial practice, ‘Maria Theresa Alvres’ we critically analysed Beirut through her methodologies and rigorous processes. Our site was a checkpoint in the civil war located on the Green Line, which was a physical fraction in the political framework of the city.The fracture in the system is overcome by new systems of control and the line takes a metaphysical preposition and paradoxically inhabits the lack of human inhabitation in the war. The building is just one fragment in a collection that their collective memories and cultural identities have been the erasure of the stratification of historical narratives in Beirut.

The projective future reconstructs the museum's practices of preservation and subverts them to speak to ideologies of post preservation. It unveils the dichotomous tension between perfection and destruction in the evolution of life. The conventional definition and material construction of the ‘artefact’ is reimagined to create speculative intervention spaces as counter sites. The artefacts of the museum are reimagined based on their relationship to the key words and represent the urban and social decay of the city. The interrelation between the human and non human is complex and multifaceted, however is the foundation through which these ideologies are realised.

Undoubtedly, the historical context of Beirut was writing the prefigured present temporal context. Through utilising the past as a system for change and growth, the erasure and loss of identity is progressively retaken in a multi layered intervention; the physicality; the mental; the identity; the collective memory.


YEAR 2020

I am a heritage preposition that is manifesting my demise. A collection of marble, limestone, concrete, glass and human body are reorganised into individual landscapes, which idealise materiality and temporality as vehicles for natural destruction. The Assi El Hadath Mummies once preserved in controlled glass boxes are positioned into an extruded glass cage. Their fragile deceased bodies lay atop of wooden slat cases which inhabit families of invasive vulture bees. I plant modest native trees below, which over time will rise and become a home for the bees to harvest honey. The bees rely on the flesh of dead bodies to survive and reproduce. I instruct the bees to gradually start feeding off the mummies, my eyes watching on from afar,
my mind satisfied with how my body responds. I don’t stop there though, I want more.

The tomb of tyre once displayed in an uninhabitable room is now subverted to the external elements.

I slice my thick masonry façade walls and cut cavities to position the Tomb of the Tyre. Each tomb, a different size I intend to watch on as their slow decay commences. I dismantle their frescoes by splaying them onto the external walls intending to watch as their slow decay occurs. The Ahriam Sarcophagus which celebrates the King of Byblos was once elevated on a podium structure. Today, I have fragmented the limestone artefact and displaced it around my body in excavated lacerations in my floor. The gashes are filled with concrete rubble that encased the artefacts in the war, the fragment of the sarcophagus laid on top. I admirably gaze over my work, or destruction as society views it. My body once this preserved, clinical structure that projected my colonial historical past now recognised as a place of decay. In the wake of this place though, my mind feeling nonchalant as the decline prepares to individualise itself.

YEAR 2040

I construct a grid like structure of metal rods and hang them from my ceiling. The Anthropoid Sarcophagi’s are suspended on metal racks that hang above and below the subtracted voids. Access is by choice only.  The tumultuous climate has caused acid rain to pellet down over the last 20 years. Racks, overrun by rust are cracking and the sarcophagi’s bodies are crumbling. Their skin once white marble bodies now swamped with black gypsum crust. The basement now flooded, half the sarcophagi’s unseen trapped underwater. The artefact dangerously close to extinction from urban society, I indulge on their demise surveilling as nature takes their place.

The vulture bees have reproduced to the masses and are dominant within their glass structures. Feeding off the mummies in a frenzy they enter the carcass through it’s eyes salivating on the rotting flesh and burying it into its stomach. The tree, now overgrown its cage has fractured the glass, which is sweating from the dense humidity. The mummies deceased body unable to defend against humidity and the bees will vanish, as if it never existed

YEAR 2120

The cavities in my walls are crumbling under the parasitical pressure of the vines as they climb, creep and sprawl up my endemic ochre limestone to invade my body. The once continuous edges of the tombs, now untouchable from their ragged edges and the frescoes now weathered away blowing in the wind transcending beyond more than my decaying body. Fragments of my walls lay stagnant among the rubble, my mind harshly triggering to a flashback from the war. Memories of people running, screaming in anguish, the staccato of machine guns firing tick over my mind. It only makes me want my destruction more. The lacerations in the ground gradually expanding, the Ahriam Sarcophagus getting lost under the rubble. The perpetual tension between the concrete and the limestone is causing the limestone to break down into microscopic particles.

The grid structure of metal rods that once hung from the ceiling, now a displaced collection of fragments. The metal rods snapping from the rust, now hanging above as daggers threating to fall at any moment. The sarcophagi’s that hung above fell hitting the flooded basement. Their bodies sliced into a multitude of pieces in the process of the fall. The native plants float atop the water, almost disguising the carnage underneath. My body almost unrecognisable among the destruction humans tend not to visit me anymore, my mind satisfied that my body is a deterrent for their invasive explorations.

YEAR 2220

My mind and soul are ingrained within Beirut, however my body I felt could have existed naturally within any city. All that’s left of my physical colonial identity is fragments of my intimidating ornamental Corinthian columns encompassed within my front walls. The once cascading central staircase that seduced humans in through their smooth monolithic silhouettes are a compilation of uninhabitable pieces. The non human temporal and natural elements that have been a participant in the destruction are evidence that decay is inherent in all living things. My identity, which was once lost due to the trauma of the civil war I have regained through my destruction. The non human forces represent Beirut for what I see, embracing all the natural elements and leaving humans behind. Through my individual decay it has mirrored the social and cultural decay of this city, a city lost in a traumatic moment of a time, a war that still defines the city to this day. The implication of this is a nostalgic idealisation of the past, my body a representation triggering the traceback of cultural memory, therefore reinstating the collective memory of my city.

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