The artists Etel Adnan and Joana Hadjithomas met at the end of the 1990s. They quickly grew close, bound by links to a city they had never been to: Smyrna (today’s Izmir). Joana’s paternal Greek family were forced into exile from Smyrna by the Turkish armies after the end of the Ottoman Empire. Etel’s Greek mother was born in Smyrna, married to a Syrian officer of the Ottoman Army and exiled to Lebanon after the fall of the empire.
Etel and Joana lived in an imaginary Smyrna, without ever setting foot there. At present, both find themselves engaged with questions around the transmission of history and interrogate their attachment to objects, places, imaginary constructions and mythologies without images. How are we to live today, out of the nostalgia as Etel would say, in the “eternal present”?
The two women’s personal stories weave a background to the radical changes that took place in the region following the Ottoman fall. The film, co-directed by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige is part of their project I Stared at Beauty So Much, interrogating notions of identity, belonging and nationalism. It also invokes poetry as a tool for resisting barbarians.
Following the screening of Ismyrna (50 mins), the artists are joined in conversation by the Director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, Hoor Al-Qasimi.
To coincide with the launch of the book Two Suns In a Sunset.
Organised with and supported by the Sharjah Art Foundation
Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige collaborate as filmmakers and artists. They have directed multi awarded documentaries and feature films such A Perfect Day (2005). and Je Veux Voir (I Want to See), starring Catherine Deneuve and Rabih Mroué, (2008). In 2013, they presented their feature documentary The Lebanese Rocket Society, the strange tale of the Lebanese space race and a series of artistic installations around the space project of the 1960s. Then they have focused on spams and scams and the virtuality of internet and lately on poetry facing troubled times.
Their artwork, part of major private and public collection have been extensively shown in solo and group shows in museums, biennials and art centers around the world, such as Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, Guggenheim, New York; British Museum, London, Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE, Ashkal Alwan (Beirut), Victoria & Albert Museum, London, SF MOMA, Musée d’art Moderne, Paris, Mori Art Museum, KW Berlin, Tate Modern, MOMA (New York) Singapore Art Museum and the Biennale of Sharjah, Kochi-Muziris, Istambul, Gwangjiu and Venice and lately solo shows in HOME (Manchester), MIT List Visual Art Center (Cambridge), Sharjah Art Foundation, (AUE), Jeu de Paume (Paris), IVAM (Spain) and Haus der Kunst (Munich)