Finding out What I Want : a search for freedom
Beirut, May 14 2003
by Ramsay Short
Sara Badr stands provocatively in front of her painting I Want to Tease You in the near darkness of the nightclub. The picture shows a woman thrusting forward seductively toward the viewer; it bears a striking resemblance to her.
“It is at once self-portrait and then not. It is sexual? Perhaps. It all depends on the person looking at it. I Want to Tease You is part of the whole theme of the exhibition. It is to tease, to provoke reaction. But nobody will be teased in the same way,” Badr explains.
The painting is the first of eight examining the theme of rediscovery, of the adult reconquering the simplicity and instinctual freedom of thought that children have. It is part of an art installation by Badr entitled I Want, in collaboration with Agial art gallery and showing at Strange Fruit this week.
“The paintings, the film, all represent the adult trying to recapture the freedom he held as a child,” Badr says. “It is about the paradox between childhood and adulthood because when you are a child you have no barriers to your freedom and imagination”.
Badr is many things: a painter, a graphic designer, and a shop owner. She runs a graphic design company, and has a furniture and design shop named in Achrafieh. But a philosopher she is not.
And yet, the effectiveness of her message lies in its simple naivety.
“I want people to view this exhibit and question them-selves, and their lives, and so free themselves from the chains of adulthood,” Badr says.
The installation consists of eight 2-meter high paintings arranged in two sets of four on the stage of the club. Behind, a seven-and-a-half minute film accompanied by beat-heavy music is continuously projected on to the club’s cinema screen.
The paintings are mixed media on loose canvas, mostly in white and black, with titles such as I Want To Be a Dancer and I Want to Implode.
Badr says the show is obviously autobiographical but is relevant to all of us.
“In life we want to be a paradox, we want to be black and white,” she says. “We all want to follow, but we also want to be followed.”
I Want to Be Earth and Sky depicts a dancing figure with legs attached to the earth to help him turn so he can spin fast enough to reach the sky.
I Want to Fly shows a female figure, bent as if about to drive from a great height. She is following the directions of a bird perched next to her spreading its wings to fly.
“The bird is teaching the woman how to fly, as a child uses its imagination to see infinite possibilities”, Badr explains.
The film, flashing as you walk round the paintings, consists of different images overlapped with statement such as : “I want to be born again and again,” “I want to dance on my horse.”
“Galloping is freedom, freedom is childhood,” she says.
However one chooses to decipher that, the exhibition definitely requires more interaction from visitors than those placed in traditional gallery spaces.
“I wanted this installation to be in a club, a place that did not conform to traditional art shows. I like to do things that people react to. I want to get a reaction,” Badr says.
The most original par of the show involves two 5-meter long silkscreen paintings and one 10-meter long, entitled Flying Butter, Quidam, and Sit Still. Any part of these paintings can be bought in 35x50cm sections for $35 each.
Although these follow the same theme, Badr describes these as being “satirique”.
“I hate the way many people buy painting not because they like them particularly, but because they want them to go with their household furniture, or fill a blank wall. This is ridiculous,” she says.
“So this way you buy any cross-section of the painting you want.
The overall effect of the exhibit is not unpleasant. It makes innovative use of an alternative space, the paintings brightly lit against the darkness on the club. The pictures, along with the film, are bold and in your face, perhaps only the I Wants. of the statements bombard you a little too crudely.
The brooding vastness of the paintings and the effective use of black and white redeems this to an extent and one leaves with the resolution to follow his instincts freely as a child.