The archive will never be either memory or anamnesis as spontaneous, alive and internal experience. On the contrary: the archive takes place at the place of originary and structural breakdown of the said memory.
Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever
All permanent collections are a paradox. For the historian’s desire to conserve the past – through the collection of artworks, archives and documents – is to replace the past by way of narrativizing those historical events from which such artefacts originate. again, rubbed smooth, a moment in time – caesura addresses this quagmire by taking AUB’s current exhibition, The Permanent Collection, as its subject. In so doing, the curatorial team first read The Permanent Collection as a dreamscape, whereupon the exhibition’s various manifest signifiers – paintings, wall color, supplemental didactics and framing architecture – were identified and analyzed. Secondly, the team asked: what did these elements signify beneath the exhibition’s curatorial intent and beyond the art historical account given to artworks by Khalil Saleeby, Saliba Douaihy, Omar Onsi, Moustapha Farroukh, and César Gemayel that are domiciled in AUB's permanent collection?
In the course of our reading, three latent historical events, within The Permanent Collection’s manifest narrative structure, reemerged: The Lebanese Civil War (1990-1975), AUB’s student uprising (1975-1967), and the famed Milk Bar, which today is the AUB Gallery. The curatorial team then endeavoured to displace this latent historical content to the outside vitrines "wrapping" the gallery’s exterior walls like a membrane, one that porously delineates the so-called “exterior” world of materialist history from the “interior” space of aestheticized memory. In so doing, what again, rubbed smooth, a moment in time – caesura attempts to enact, as a “supplemental” exhibition to The Permanent Collection, is the return of the “historical repressed” within the aesthetic meta-narrative that defines the permanent collection’s institutional housing and annual exhibition.
From this perspective the title again, rubbed smooth, a moment in time – caesura intentionally connotes a different temporality than the art historical narrative around which The Permanent Collection is structured. Instead, the curatorial team conceptually aimed at the archive’s quintessential paradox: to return the past to the present, through its re-presentation, is to erase the past. In this way, all archives move forward in as much as they move backwards. Analogously, the supplemental exhibition’s title –graphically running across the vitrines’ surfaces, metaphorically conjoining the historical moments represented therein – can be read forwards and backwards as a palindrome. Linguistically, the title thus performatively enacts the philosophical paradoxes at the core of all archives: palimpsest, caesura, historical time. Moreover, the phrase “again rubbed smooth” itself derives from the literal translation of the Greek origin of “palimpsest” (PALIN: AGAIN PSĒSTOS: RUBBED SMOOTH). This translation, then, poetically emphasizes the collective action of the exhibition: rubbing history and memory smooth again. The act of doing that and its paradoxical nature - in this moment in time - is what an actual“caesura” is. Conceptually, the historian-archivist-collector repeats this action when retracing and dealing with temporal hinge conjoining the “present” to the “past.”
And yet, the curatorial team readily acknowledges that their attempt to deconstruct The Permanent Collection’s totalizing narrative inevitably reconstructs another one. But it is by way of this acknowledgment that we may critically ponder the palimpsest of discursive and historical layers embodying this and other collections. The curators, in turn, encourage the viewers to ponder whether again, rubbed smooth, a moment in time – caesura therefore creates a dreamscape within a dreamscape. Which is to say, in the course of uncovering the gaps within The Permanent Collection, might we have further concealed them elsewhere? Moreover, have the vitrines’ three historical signifiers then become subjects for more historical signifiers? To this the curatorial team affirmatively asserts: No doubt. Your serve.
Curatorial Team: Luna Arawi, Noëlle Buabbud, Juli Carson, Philippa Dahrouj, Amal Jaafar, Danielle Krikorian, Nour Maria El Helou, Karen Murad, Alex Sassine, Yassmeen Tukan, Maya Turk