The Cultural Warrior

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Lebanese artist and architect Nadim Karam is a multi-disciplinary artist. He fuses his artistic output of sculpture, painting, and drawing with his background in architecture to create large-scale urban art projects in different cities of the world. Blending various cultural influences, Karam’s works transcend social, political and national borders. He seeks to ‘create moments of dreams’ in different cities of the world, constructing a vocabulary of forms in urban settings to narrate stories and evoke collective memory with a very particular whimsical, often absurdist approach.

Renowned for his public art and work in urban regeneration, his projects and installations are interventions that seek to animate cities as diverse as Melbourne, Prague, Dubai, Beirut, London and Nara, Japan.  These interventions often take the form of large-scale steel sculptures, described as ‘urban toys’ by the artist. For Karam, it is not only we, as humans, who need to dream, but our cities. Each urban toy has significance ready to be inhabited by stories, which become mingled with history. They reproduce the world around them and then disappear into it, suggesting that cities do have the ability to dream.

Born in 1957 in Senegal, Nadim Karam lives and works in Beirut. In 1996, he established Atelier Hapsitus, a satellite grouping of young Lebanese architects and designers that help him build his vision internationally. Karam’s work has appeared in numerous solo and group exhibitions worldwide including Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris (2013), as well as biennales such as Venice, Liverpool, and Gwangju.

Eye catching and symbolic, his larger then life sculptures share the joy, the life the stories in parallel with the pain, the catastrophe, the violence that comes together as one life. His work is an exploration of the creative power of dreams. Karam’s responses to the region’s perpetual state of war are his sculptures that he christened the Cultural Warriors.

“Art fragments fanaticism and that is why it is important for artistic voices to become louder in this part of the world.” Karam says, “Artists are there to show the other side to the fanatics and the dictators. In my show you go from very dark things to very optimistic things, but they all have balance. Even the dark side of the moon has light and even in agony we can be creative.” Whether you are pondering on a cloud or blinded by the smoke of war, the way to move forward is through creativity that ties together the community.

The girl and boy pointing towards the sky as they hold hands, is one of my favorites. Regardless of their weight, they seem to be floating on air with their heads in the cloud, dreaming and singing yet very much present on this earth. As the wind strokes her hair, they are ready to embark on a new adventure. Their bond is what makes them real in this crazy world we live in. This poetic view is evident in the playful forms of his positive, life-affirming sculptures. Getting lost in his dreamlike world where the real fuses with the unreal, one can only wonder what his magnificent wonderers have seen and where they’ve been. Just like our Phoenician forefathers, Karam exports from this little land his cultural and lyrical warriors to travel around the world, to discover, learn, and narrate his own stories embedded in his imagination. His sculptures live in a world within a world, where music, art, and dreams are very much alive and real.



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