April 18, 2018

“Beirut: Theater of Dreams” at PU’s Bernstein Gallery

“BEIRUT/BIG BEN”: The black-and-white digital photography of Manal Abu-Shaheen will be featured in “Beirut: Theater of Dreams,” at Princeton University’s Bernstein Gallery in Robertson Hall. The exhibit runs April 23 through August 15, with an artist’s reception on Friday, April 27 from 6 to 8 p.m.

An exhibition of black-and-white digital photography by Manal Abu-Shaheen, “Beirut: Theater of Dreams,” will open at Princeton University’s Bernstein Gallery in Robertson Hall on April 23. The exhibit will run through August 15, with an artist reception on Friday, April 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. The exhibit and reception are free, open to the public, and sponsored by Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Abu-Shaheen’s Beirut series shows her version of Beirut’s future as seen through contemporary architectural renderings, and the advertisements and billboards that dot the city today. The imagery of Western glamour and consumerism is juxtaposed with the reality of a present-day city torn apart by a history of occupation and ongoing conflict. Gunshot holes in crumbling walls, garbage strewn in the streets, and building facades waiting for demolition share the same cityscape with huge advertisements of Kate Winslet selling fancy watches and gleaming modern architecture. In this ever-transforming city, at first glance it is sometimes difficult to determine where the billboard begins and where it ends.

“My recent work focuses on the ways in which globalized communication brings idealized images from one culture in contact with the realities of another,” writes the artist. “Motivated by a lack of visual history of the landscape in Lebanon, I am building my own photographic archive of what Beirut looks like today: a city dominated by billboards.

Manal Abu-Shaheen is a Queens-based artist born in Beirut, Lebanon. She received a MFA in photography from the Yale School of Art; a BA from Sarah Lawrence College; and attended Lebanese American University in Byblos, Lebanon.