Monday, November 29, 2010

Art Review - Sex Blinds Us All

Paul Hage Boutros' fifteen minute video "It’s Confusing These Days” has been chosen by the Beirut Art Center to feature in its Exposure 2010 exhibition. The Beirut Art Center is one of the few Lebanese exhibition spaces that allow new and experimental artists to display their work which is usually not aimed for the general market. The center has been able to do so through its yearly Exposure exhibit. Paul Hage Boutros, a Mechanical Engineering Graduate from the American University of Beirut and the holder of a Masters in Contemporary Art and Media at the Valand School of Art in Gothenburg, Sweden. His cross-cultural and multidisciplinary background gives him an advantage in mixing Art and Digital Media.

It’s Confusing These Days” is a video with a static frame showing an orange couch, a green pillow and a pomegranate with a knife on a steel plate. The action starts when an intruder wearing black sits and starts to peel the fruit. Throughout the video, we cannot see the face of the intruder and we cannot hear his voice. All we see is the intruder interacting with the fruit. After it is peeled, the intruder leaves the frame and leaves the peeled fruit with the plate and knife on the couch. Five minutes later, the intruder returns and starts consuming the pomegranate. When the fruit does not bare any meat, he leaves with the plate and leaves nothing. The video continues, showing the couch and the green cushion. After five minutes of no motion, the intruder comes appears again and leaves this time an apple instead of the pomegranate and exits the screen.

The use of music was also very powerful in the video. Romantic and smooth piano was played during the times when the intruder was not present in the screen, specifically, when the observer is alone and contemplating either the fruit, or the peeled fruit, or the couch with no fruit. Music is an effective tool that the artist uses to move people’s emotions at certain time intervals. But also, it exposes the objective of the artist and his message.

Through the association of the changes in music to the actions of the intruder, it becomes apparent that there is a sexual and romantic connotation to his message. I believe that Boutros’s objective is to underline how people’s sexual desires can blind them of the nature of the object they are wanting. This is most apparent in the use of the pomegranate which has many religious symbolisms. In the Quran, the pomegranate is mentioned twice as one of the good things God has created and also that it grows in heaven. This creates this preset notion of desire for this fruit of perfection: A desire for something transcendent and holy.

When the fruit is left on the couch, music plays the role of seducing the observer and creating this romantic atmosphere. The observer is then shocked when the music stops and the intruder who suddenly walks in, and starts peeling then eating the fruit, as if someone else has consumed that pleasure, and the observer cannot participate. Notice that only the body of the intruder shows and the plate is put in a way to cover his genitalia. The action where the intruder was consuming the fruit, reaching his hand to his genitalia, retrieving the fruit and consuming it, exposes the need to consume and achieve pleasure. The area where the fruit is placed, hiding the croch, evokes the idea of sexual desire and the consumption of the fruit also underlines acting upon sexual needs and satisfying them.

When the fruit is consumed and removed, music is off and we have a moment of silence. There is no fruit and there is no romance. However, the intruder enters the frame again and this time places a green apple in the place of the pomegranate. The apple pushes a new religious symbol: the Adam and Eve complex. This is Boutros’ powerful punch line. The music is back on again, the romance is created, the sex is evoked but this time, it’s a different fruit that the observer is gazing at. Yet the desire is still there, the artist was able to blind the observer of the nature of the object by captivating him by desire, romance and sex.

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