On an undefined moment in time in early June of this year Sana Khalil, a graduate student of Alchimia’s MFA program, realized her final exhibition as a performative and multi-media event for a rather accidental audience. An impromptu jewelry intervention into the real world one could say, with no text nor official invitation released. All we got, and here we stands for her Alchimia tutors, was a chaotic account in retrospect, along with images and two carefully packaged texts addressing her work, her motivation and wider references.
What we do know is that a sit-in the street was forced by police and the weather to take place in a small private space in Via San Jacopo, in Florence. Wooden balls, a projector, a computer, hammers and candles where the main components of the event. A sound and video recording violence, bombing and cutting acted as a scenography for the scene. A few people heard, watched and were forced to hammer the wooden balls as a group. As Sana Khalil wrote “nothing changed not the shape of the balls, nor nothing else in the world. Except they realized that they are part of this big game. I didn’t show my jewellery pieces I just wanted it to be an affirmation of the fact that we are all vulnerable in front of such big events and I wanted people to understand that this is what I am trying to say.”
Her unconventional and modest presentation was no real surprise, Khalil’s way of operating into the jewelry field seems like an ongoing attempt to challenge its very premises and norms.
Below, just like us, in a fictional act of imagination backwards, you can build your own narrative through the few traces and clues Khalil has decided to share with you.
An Introduction. By Lynn Darwish
Sana Khalil was born in 1985 in Beirut, Lebanon, where she lived, studied, and worked until 2011, at which point she went to Italy to pursue her studies at the contemporary jewellery school, Alchimia. Her body of work draws on intersections of power, war trauma, and vulnerability. Khalil began exploring her artwork with natural materials, such as wood and iron, by way of cutting and carving. Always with sophisticated care, she made wooden half-spheres, or rather domes, representing religious, political and economic powers, as well representing fear and death. Looking more closely, it is almost as if Sana Khalil’s domes are subjected to shock treatments. They are etched, hammered, and burnt with a violence that could have only emerged through the harsh realities of war and conflict in Lebanon, but also from Khalil’s experiences of alienation and judgment in Europe. A sense of frustration and apathy often permeates her artistic process. After all, it could take hours of hammering before minor deformations begin to show. Cracks close back in on themselves. Domes, it seems, are difficult, if not impossible, to break. Could this be a confirmation of our solitary feelings of futility in facing the greater religious and economic powers? Perhaps. One thing we can be sure of, is that these intimate wounds, now exposed to the world, become affirmations of our feeling of helplessness, of our pain, and our defeat. And in this midst of all this, who knows, we may also find some strength.
IN CONFLICT. Moments of Strike. By Nina Altrove Vasconcelos
“The Polemos is the father of all things”: written in a fragment by Heraclitus about two thousand five hundred years ago.
Polemos (Πόλεμος), in Greek mythology, was the demon of war, his daughter Alala was the personification of a battle cry.
In the history of man, war is the common denominator of all ages. In every country in the world reality is plural and contradictory, multiple and conflicting – which implies that a solution is never simple, and certainly not unified.
Every achievement of man, for better or for worse – beyond good and evil – has always been the result of a polemos, therefore conditioned by it.
In psychology, psychic conflict is a state of tension and imbalance in which the individual finds ones self when subjected to the pressure of trends, needs, and contrary motivations.
This type of internal conflict, does not necessarily have a ‘negative implication”: it can be beneficial when measuring means within ones self or among each other. It allows them to know their limits with others, and a curiosity for that which is different or a form of imbalance that can generate growth, maybe coming to balance through the knowledge of the extremes.
When a conflict instead degenerates, it is said that it explodes into war: the differences are no longer subject of discussion, but are the affront.
In this kind of war there are no winners, only losers.
Sana Khalil comes from Lebanon, a country that is often found in a vicious cycle of conflict and war to the point of generating a paradox that lives off of its own political and religious differences, including homogenization, contradictions, tensions, and permanent negotiation.
To express this sense of frustration and hopeless inability to positively affect a type of society folded in on itself perpetrating the use of violence as a mechanism jammed, Sana Khalil uses a natural material such as wood, in the form of a dome for what the dome represents: power, both religious and economic.
The half spheres and wooden beads are subjected to shock treatments: etched, carved, hammered, burnt, with violence and always with sophisticated care, only to be left there, exposed to the world.
Other than self, and at the same time the most intimate part of ones self, the wounded part is exposed to become a symbol of helplessness, an affirmation of pain, and of defeat.
All photos by Deema Murad.