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Backbone – سند الظهر – Exhibition
22.Oktober 2021 - 30.Oktober 2021
"Backbone" is a multidisciplinary exhibition by Lebanese artist Mazen Khaddaj. The show is a collection of video performances, multichannel installations, and documentation that signifies the relationship with his father, and his death in December 2020. After a long and heavy battle with COVID19, his dad surrendered and left him at the age of sixty-three. His passing was like an earthquake that shook Mazen's reality and left him broken.
Book yourself a time slot to visit the exhibition here
Mazen's dad, Melhem, was a traditional Arab father that worked tirelessly to provide for his family. For many years, until his death, he worked every day in his shop in Aley, Mount Lebanon. Melhem was a man of faith and very respected in his town, he was also strict with his children and required a lot of attention. He was kind towards his family and friends and loved them fiercely, but hid his feelings way beneath his tough exterior. He was noticeably very proud of Mazen's only and eldest brother, Hassan. Hassan got married, had a child, and took over the family business.
"How could I have told my dad who I was? I already looked different, I wore tight clothes and had non-traditional artistic hobbies. I was soft and sensitive and kept my sexuality hidden in a tightly sealed closet. Melhem always associated my lifestyle and looks with an artist's way of life. He was not interested in my art, but he cared about me and supported me financially in my endeavors"
- Mazen about his father.
"Backbone" is an explosion of grief and other unprocessed emotions stemming from Mazen´s childhood into his adult years. With this show, he opens his world and depicts the story of a gay Arab boy and his conservative father. The exhibition is in memory of his beloved dad, Melhem Khaddaj.
Book yourself a time slot to visit the exhibition here
About the artist
Mazen Khaddaj (b. 1985) is a multidisciplinary Lebanese artist working in painting, performance, video art, and installation. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Graphic Design from the American University of Science and Technology in Beirut in 2008. His background includes working as an Art Director in multinational advertising companies for several years before eventually dedicating himself fully to the arts.
Mazen started his artistic journey in the medium of painting. He exhibited his first solo show ‘Bonds’ at Art Circle (Beirut) in 2013. Eventually, he would move into a more multidisciplinary approach, showcasing video performances in addition to paintings, such as his second solo show ‘The Middle State’ which was exhibited both at 392Rmeil393 Gallery (Gemmayze, Beirut) and at the University of Balamand Gallery (Lebanon) in 2015. These were followed by the exhibition ‘Emotion in Motion’ at Artspace Hamra (Beirut) in 2016 that featured ‘The Eye’, an installation project featuring five videos depicting the relationship between individuality and society. ‘The Eye’ is now part of the permanent collection of the Modern and Contemporary Art Museum (MACAM) in Alita, Byblos, Lebanon.
Mazen participated in an artist residency at the prestigious Pilotenkuche International Art Residency, in Leipzig, Germany, in 2015. This would lead him to eventually relocate to Germany in 2017, and this move would greatly impact his identity as an artist. He would also go on to enroll as a guest student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Leipzig, further adding to his education.
Mazen documented his struggle to ground himself in a new country through his project ‘I am a Foreigner’, showcasing several paintings and two video installations, which were first exhibited at GAPGAP in Leipzig in 2017 and then at WerkStadt, Berlin in 2020. Mazen proceeded with more solo shows including ‘I End to Begin’ at 392Rmeil393 Gallery, Beirut, in 2019, and ‘The Laundry Room’ at the Museum Der Bildenden Künste, Leipzig, also in 2019. Both shows investigated deeply the artist’s feelings towards his identity and his experiences as an immigrant. Further exploring these issues that same year, his installation ‘Spot The Foreigner’ was part of the Re-Orient Exhibition at the Grassi Museum, Leipzig. In January 2020, Khaddaj showcased ‘Lützner Street 7’, another solo show, at Albareh Art Gallery in Bahrain. In November 2020, Khaddaj participated in the Festival Kasseler Dokfest 37, Kassel, Germany, with a project titled ‘The Artists are Not Present’ which is a video installation. Shortly after, Khaddaj was awarded Honorable Mention for ‘The Artists are Not Present’ by the jury of the Golden Cube of the Kasseler Dokfest. Visible Thoughts was the title of his latest painting solo show that was exhibited in Kunst Kan gallery in Amsterdam.
Mazen has also participated in several collective shows, including in Lebanon, Bahrain, Turkey, and Germany. Mazen’s paintings are a play between textures and color, transparency and flatness. His work manifests human thought and interaction through figuration, which appears abstracted and dissipating, intersecting yet secluded. Subsequent video performances and installations are extensions of the work on canvas; what is inherent to still surfaces translates into mutable forms.
Mazen Khaddaj is currently living in Berlin, Germany, where he is practicing his art. He still has strong ties to the Middle East and continues to engage in artistic activities there.
Please note: To take part in events at Oyoun or visit our exhibitions, you need to have a negative corona test from the same day or proof of vaccination / recovery. FFP2 Masks are mandatory at Oyoun until further notice. Further information about our hygiene concept can be found here.