02 January 2006

Seen in Beirut, finally

I’ve lived in Beirut for over a year, and this last week I went to two easily accessible places that I’d been meaning to get to ever since we arrived. If you’d like an alphabetized and annotated list of why I didn’t manage it I can provide it. I keep a diary. I know exactly what I was doing instead.

1. Goethe Institute. Yes, Beirut has one. No, it hasn’t been closed due to the situation. I spoke German with another German speaker for the first time in over 9 months. Makes a difference, folks. I can feel myself getting happier even though it made me a bit nervous. Because I learned German in school for so many years I still feel like I’m passing or failing with every incorrect article that escapes my lips. Anyway, they have a library, a kindergarten, a playground, and best of all, *real* Germans.

2. National Museum of Beirut. I’m not sure why a national museum is of a city. Shouldn’t it be the National Museum of Lebanon? Despite this conundrum, I had a wonderful time. Can you believe that an old art-fart lime me lived within an easy one mile walk of the place for over a year and didn’t bother to go? I really have nothing but praise for the museum. There were several helpful videos that reminded me of many a thing from my undergrad studies of ancient-through-roman art, and the layout of the exhibit successfully leads the visitor through the phases of Lebanon’s distant past. One of the most interesting things though, was that as you enter the exhibition space you see a photograph of this at the Louvre, an image of the transportation of Lebanon’s cedars. At first I though that the curator must have a chip on his/her shoulder over all the artifacts that Europeans excavated and hauled off. Then I kept reading. It originated in Iraq, not Lebanon, so surely the reproduction was not there as some sort of testimony against the plundering imperialists. Anyway, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a museum exhibit a reproduction of something some other museum has, but the more I thought about it, the more I really liked the idea. I'd love to see an exhibit completely empty except for photos of missing pieces and those little white cards telling where the real thing is. I’d love to see Egypt do an exhibition of all their now-scattered obelisks. It could be like that. Or Greece could do an exhibit of the full Acropolis statuary even though most of the good ones are tucked away in the museums of western Europe. Forget loaning out the originals and touring exhibitions. The exhibit would necessarily take on a different tone and purpose, but I like it.

1 comment:

Vatti said...

Glad you were able to see these things. Interesting ideas!