Akram Zaatari was born in Lebanon in 1966, and lives and works in Beirut. He has produced more than forty videos, a dozen books, and countless installations of photographic material, all pursuing a range of interconnected themes, subjects, and practices related to excavation, political resistance, the lives of former militants, the legacy of an exhausted left, intimacies among men, the circulation of images in times of war, and the play of tenses inherent to various letters that have been lost, found, buried, discovered, or otherwise delayed in reaching their destinations.
Zaatari has played a critical role in developing the formal, intellectual, and institutional infrastructure of Beirut’s contemporary art scene. He was one of a handful of young artists who emerged from the delirious but short-lived era of experimentation in Lebanon’s television industry, which was radically reorganized after the country’s civil war. As a co-founder of the Arab Image Foundation, a groundbreaking, artist-driven organization devoted to the research and study of photography in the region, he has made invaluable and uncompromising contributions to the wider discourse on preservation and archival practice. Zaatari’s work has been featured at Documenta13 in 2012 and at the Venice Biennial in 2013.
Zaatari will speak about the performative aspect of his work through the example of Letter to a Refusing Pilot, which is rooted in his personal history in architecture education and documentary practices. While stressing the importance of refusal, Letter to a Refusing Pilot combines elements of civic architecture, small-town gossip, the archeology of memory, family history, the politics of fear, the grace of flight, and the punishing realities of war.