"I never liked mosaics. I never saw what people saw in them. Then spending those six weeks in the museum I started photographing little parts of the mosaics scattered through the museum and something kind of shifted and I became completely taken by them. They began to offer me infinite possibilities. That’s how I feel now—a sense of endlessness… " - Annabel Daou
In November of 2017, Annabel Daou spent several weeks at the National Museum of Beirut creating an artwork in the form of an audio guide featuring the voices of the people of Beirut. She invited people from all walks of life into the museum to view the collection and respond to a series of questions. The questions Daou posed didn’t reference art history or archeology but instead allowed for the objects to exist within the everyday lives of the respondents. Those voices can now be heard in the National Museum of Beirut, where the audio guide that Daou created is available to visitors.
Daou’s new exhibition at Galerie Tanja Wagner includes a video made in conjunction with the museum audio guide. It also features a series of mosaics that developed from Daou’s experiences interacting with the museum, its objects, and the people who took part in the project. Like the audio guide, these works deal with open-ended questions, and invite an infinite array of possible answers. They are created entirely out of three basic materials: paper, gesso, and graphite. This constraint references the limitations of actual stone mosaics. Yet far from being “set in stone,” the fragmented surfaces of these works feel as though they might, at any moment, come apart or reassemble into new configurations. Like the Beirut audio guide project, the mosaics allude to both the past and the present moment. They contain language dealing with yearnings and anxieties both personal and political.
Although there is a sense of urgency to this language, the intricate materiality of the work solicits meditative responses. Taken together, Daou’s mosaics provide a space for reflection not only on pressing current affairs but on the questions that have pursued us throughout history.