Borderless – Beirut

Agial Gallery – Beirut

March 2012

Our notions of landscape art are much too reasonable. We envision two planes, one above the other, divided horizontally. In our minds, the line of the plain, the sea or the mountain separating the air and the land represents a border. Landscape is thus understood as a matter of territory that the drawing defines by its contours and that the color connotes by its shades.

Sara Badr Schmidt reduces this genre to its widest common denominator: the sky. To create her series, Borderless, she simply photographed blue swaths of sky, pierced by undefinable profusions of clouds. The skies, which she captured during her travels, are printed on canvas and mounted in light boxes. The abstract forms of distant spheres are retranscribed into several languages — “Arrabbiata,” “Lagom,” “Hello” — simple terms that lend a context to these portraits of the skies. For Sara Badr Schmidt, each sky has its own vocabulary. “Mots-souvenirs” — keepsake words — thus caption the images, which are objective in their form. This landscape without borders is, even so, connected to one of the most powerful elements of territory: language. This balance between ideal form and word grants Borderless an unlimited power of suggestion. In concrete terms, the works are presented unframed, creating an aura, a halo, an atmosphere.

In Badr Schmidt’s work, this aesthetic reflects a sense of the utopian. The artist has spent considerable time in the air, flying among France, Lebanon and Sweden. The sky, experienced as a space where exchanges take place, is not an immense far-offness but, rather, a force with a presence. It is no longer flat and monochrome; instead, it drinks in the horizon like a camera closing in on its subject, like a traveler gazing out through a porthole. The artist has captioned one of its windows, “Nowhere Everywhere,” a declaration in white letters that recalls Samuel Butler’s utopian novel, Erewhon. Published in 1872, the book took as its title the anagram of “nowhere” but also “now” and “here.” This ambivalence, captured in the written word, confers a universality on Sara Badr Schmidt’s work that is called into being in no place – nowhere – and, still, is called into being hic et nunc, here and now.

Alexis Jakubowicz, art critic and curator, October 2011