Lebanon’s multidimensional crisis did not occur overnight but is rather a product of a decades-long political and economic policy build-up. A network of interdependent private interests shaped Lebanon’s post-war economic model, leading to its collapse. The manifestations of the crisis in people’s daily lives are partially shared and sporadic across households, neighborhoods, and social classes. Across the board, individuals could not sit passively against the failure of state services and lack of basic utilities and had to find alternatives. As the supply of state-generated electricity is now limited to a couple of arbitrary hours, many turned to and completely relied on private generators which offer a more systematic outage schedule. This reliance comes at a price as extremely high bills are being charged in US dollars, rather than the collapsed national currency, rendering the cost of this basic utility over 400% more expensive. 

As a result of the collapsed energy grid, residents of Lebanon have resorted to solar power as a more viable alternative. In Beirut and beyond, any view from an elevated standpoint can testify to the bourgeoning of solar panels on rooftops; you would quickly notice added patches of a dark-blue layer supported by metallic structures in the already-chaotic urban landscape.  These cracks and traces of Lebanon’s economic crisis have become very visible in the social, cultural, and urban fabrics of the city, transforming the lived realities of inhabitants and ushering them into new modes of survival.  

Zawyeh Gallery is pleased to announce the opening of Dia Mrad’s solo exhibition Utilities at Alserkal Avenue from January 11 until February 22,2023. The show can also be attended virtually.Lebanon is now the site of one of the world’s worst economic crises since the 1850s.Through an ethnographic lens, Utilities seeks to explore Beirut’s economic collapse byexcavating and documenting the multilayers of the crisis’s material manifestations acrossthe city’s urban fabric. The work focuses on the infrastructural dimensions that weremost affected, namely the electricity grids, water supplies, and the banking sector. Mrad's work reflects how Beirut’s infrastructure has changed as a product of the crisis:residents turning to solar power as an alternative to the city’s energy grid; private water companies thriving as households and businesses run dry of water; and banks, where depositors’ savings are withheld and their value evaporating, becoming heavily securitized and militarized sites of hostility. Already immersed in Beirut’s social and urban landscape as an inhabitant and artist,Mrad’s work can be classified as an ‘ethnography at home’ that pushes us to think through objects. The artist’s practice focuses on the material urban landscape as a site of socio-political and economic phenomena.Dia Mrad is a Lebanese visual artist working in the field of photography. Through hiswork, he captures the shifting urban environment from aesthetic, social-economic, and cultural perspectives. Focusing largely on Beirut, the artist portrays buildings as silent witnesses, alluding to the themes of identity and transience.

Mia Richa