A fairy tale with a modern reading
Beirut, August 24, 2017
by Maghie Ghali
Schmidt’s work inspired by concern for those trapped in conflict zones.
Beirut, Lebanese-Swedish artist Sara Badr Schmidt’s new show addresses serious contemporary issues from a simple, childlike perspective.
A chilling three piece exhibition, “Il était une fois un tout petit pois” opened at Agial Art Gallery Tuesday. Schmidt’s installations touch on the violence, fear and conflict present intoday’s world, which Schmidt thought she’d left behind as her family moved around several times to escape Lebanon’s Civil War.
“After the war I never wanted to talk about that experience, but when I started seeing the terrorism happening everywhere 1 felt like I was right back there,” she told The Daily Star.
“Having children of my own, I was worried about how they were feeling … I always thought [that) in Europe these problems would not touch us…”
‘Once Upon a Time there was a Little Pea,’ the show’s central installation, is inspired by the artist’s concern for her children, and all young people trapped in conflict zones.
Presented as a troubling variation on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale ‘The Princess and the Pea,’ Schmidt started work on the piece in 2015 after the “Charlie Hebdo” attacks in Paris.
The piece comprises a tower of brightly colored mattresses, atop which a little-girl-sizeddoll is arrayed in sleeping position.
As she sleeps, an oversized green pea-like sphere sits ominously on the bed frame aboveher.
“She knows something is coming and she tries to hide,” Schmidt explained. “The pea represents a bomb and all the violence but she finds shelter.”
The mattresses rest on top of a specially made blue carpet, into which have been woven the words, “A city with a blue sky and blue sea, a lost cloud ended up in the sky, it startedto rain, iron rain.”
Light boxes have been hung on the gallery walls, with photos of blue skies from six different areas of Beirut, selected for their proximity to each other and communal identities.
“These words on the carpet are very dreamlike but then the ‘iron rain’ is the bombs and missiles,” Schmidt said.
“The sky photos show how we’re all under the same blue sky but still fighting each other.”
“I wrote ‘Sawa’ (together] on the photos to show this idea that we’re not so different,” she added.
The light boxes with words written on them and other aspects of this installation restage ideas first developed in ‘Borderless,’ a 2012 exhibition of the artist’s work that has since been featured in several countries. The themes first shown in this exhibition have been tweaked over the years, retaining an interest in the notion of borders and geographical conflicts – in contrast to skies and languages, which transcend borders.
“I started ‘Borderless’ when I was in South Lebanon on the border between us andIsrael,” Schmidt explained. “I felt constricted and closed-off but then I looked up and the sky was so clear and had no borders so I took a photo.”
From there she began pairing words and skies from ail over the world where there were conflicts, cultural devides or borders, such as ‘Wall’ with China and ‘Karma’ over the sky of Annapurna, Nepal before the 2015 earthquake.
The other two pieces in Schmidt’s show are a video projection titled ‘Skyprint’ and ‘Toile de maitre au mètre,’ three silk panels with repeating block-printed green peas and blue grids. The material is on sale by the meter.
“I do a lot of meditation and the idea of the grid is very important,” the artist said of the printed silk panels. “The green peas represent areas of stress crossing over our internal grid that we will work through and overcome,” she added .
The video projection shows images of migrating birds from Lebanon appearing and then disappearing, an allusion, she said, to the temporary nature of all things and vulnerability of human existence.
The video is accompanied by a four minute soundtrack scored by Jean-Daniel Consoloni.
Schmidt said her next project will be a further elaboration of her current work, intending to combine the ‘Princess and the Pea’ installation with five sky images from ‘Borderless’, as a more international commentary on terrorism and other sociopolitical issues.
She plans to exhibit t is tweaked project in Europe early next year.