Marwan Moujaes (1989) is a Lebanese artist working between Beirut, Paris and Lyon. He is graduated from the Lebanese University in Beirut, The Valenciennes’ School of Art and Design and from the Sorbonne University in Paris. Starting September 2018, Marwan Moujaes will be part of the 12 months art residency and the Jan Van Eyck Academy in Maastricht. He is currently a member of the research team of Art and Art sciences department at the university Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne in Paris. In his Ph.D. Marwan Moujaes investigates on the possible spaces of encounter between contemporary art and the work of mourning. More recently, Marwan Moujaes was part of the Tingshus art residency in Gamleby, Sweden and IDEAL art residency with the museum of loss and renewal, Scotland and ArtConnexion in France.
Karla Calviño Carbajal
Corrections to the English version: Leslie Mazoch
« It’s better being happy than sad », the great Brazilian poet Vinicius de Moraes would say in one of his tunes as a way of revealing our persistence to impose happiness on the substantial sadness that involves life.
Marwan Moujaes, Lebanese artist of the surprising age of 28 years, after living the experience of war in his country, adventures himself and his work into defeating this humane imposition of happiness. And Marwan Moujaes does it with a wide, varied, consistent body of work: images from NASA showing the sun’s activity in the precise moment of a chemical attack in Syria; a bouquet of flowers that covers and discovers the picture of two kids’ corpses impersonally numbered 54,55; recreating a minute of silence on a cassette in tribute to the deads; savoring candies with the honey of the beehive that the artist placed outside the forbidden Jewish cemetery in Beirut; a figure sculpted by submerging melted lead into the waters of the Litani river; confronting the heroic pitch of a song about the Arab victory in 1956 to the diminutive melody of a music box… and more.
It is always necessary to say something more about this young artist who has been working with strength and talent, as these two traits are multiplied by his discipline and effort. From his exhibitions in Lebanon and France, like in the 61st Salon de Montrouge, to his work as an artist and researcher at the École supérieure des beaux-arts de Valenciennes. His entry into the Sorbonne’s doctoral college with a project about mourning in the arts that could be interpreted as an exercise in self-consciousness about his work, which I enjoy reading with a certain degree of revelation and legacy for those who make and think art.
However, like in all inspired and confessedly sad individuals, not everything is so serious. Thosewho know Marwan well have experienced his witty and sharp sense of humor. It is precisely there, in his permanent ingenuity and witticism, where I find the intrinsic sense of his work. I also find it in his childhood in the countryside and in his life with artist Maha Yammine. From all of this is born something that reveals the work of Marwan Moujaes: time and nature, two components of life and art. Repressing sadness for a period of time and modifying the internal nature of life by imposing happiness doesn’t make us better or happier.
Then the Brazilian poet completes his musical sentence: « It’s better being happy than sad… / But to do a samba with some beauty / A bit of sadness is necessary / If not, we do not do samba ». There is so much to learn from mourning, from loss. There is so much produced and created by the eruption of sadness instead of apparent hapinness. Since Plato and Aristotle’s controversy over the liberating power of catharsis, since the Romantic poets nourished themselves with an unrealizable love and its profound melancholy, since we had the Middle Ages and the mundane pleasure that Bakhtin described as the origins of popular culture, since Viktor Shklovsky revealed to us that art discovers the objects that have remained in darkness, since the European thought (Nietzsche, Bergson, Freud, Ricoeur …) opposed to rationalist thinking and the Enlightenment for
a more free and intuitive human being, since Susan Sontag went to Sarajevo and asked herself about our emotional and human dimension when facing others’ pain… All these ideas and questions are somewhat proposed by Marwan Moujaes’s work, because anyone who gets close to understanding something well can only do it in the form of a question.
Amid all this, Marwan Moujaes comes again with a subtle gesture of extreme delicateness: retrieving a drop of wax from an uncountable number of Parisian churches in order to mold one single candle, one common light from all the lights and shadows, of all dreams and prayers of the city of Paris. What do the inhabitants of this inmensurable city dream during their sad days and nights? What do they wish for and express in the beauty of the shapes that proceeds from their impenetrable nostalgia, their almost religious melancholy?
The meeting of West and East, Lebanon and Paris, art and the world, war and peace, news with our inability to astonish, the giantism of the heroes and history with our unavoidable humane smallness, you have been molding your work, drop by drop, Marwan Moujaes, with effort and discipline. You have been creating a new and old myth: that artists work and smile. Do it for you self, Marwan Moujaes. Let there be, for you and your work, light: Fiat lux.