I...Cognitive Maps – Chapter 1

€ 16 / € 13
Arabic/FR or Arabic/EN

What do you remember about a room? Or about an apartment or space you lived in, but which no longer exists or where you never went back to? In I... Cognitive Maps – Chapter 1 artist Ely Daou, born in Beirut in 1986, travels through his memory – and history – attempting to sketch the different apartments and living spaces he occupied during and just after the Lebanese Civil War. The architectural details – as they are remembered or perhaps transformed by the artist’s memory – become the starting points for re-entering both the spaces and the past. I... Cognitive Maps – Chapter 1 is an account exploring two fundamental aspects of our physical and mental experiences: where we are and who we are.

29/05 — CIVA/Kanal – Centre Pompidou
15:00, FR
18:00, EN

30/05 — CIVA/Kanal – Centre Pompidou
19:00, EN
21:00, FR

31/05 — La Raffinerie
19:00, EN
21:00, FR

01/06 — La Raffinerie
17:00, FR
19:00, EN

By: Ely Daou
Thanks to: Joseph Daou
Surtitling: Marie Trincaretto

Presentation: Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Kanal – Centre Pompidou, CIVA, Charleroi danse
Residencies and support: Centrale Fies, Live works (Dro, Italy), Baden-Württemberg (Catalunya Grant), Goethe-Institut Barcelona, Hangar, Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart and Kunststiftung Stuttgart

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Ely Daou, I...Cognitive Maps-Chapter 1

I met Ely Daou some years ago in Barcelona in the art school I used to be a teacher. I remember our long conversations seating in the small courtyard rolling cigarettes and drinking bad coffee. While the students passed by from one class to the other, we enjoyed the winter sun sitting on uncomfortable wooden chairs speaking about art and life. Later, these conversations have continued to happen in different spaces and moments, evolving in this kind of long-term relationship between artists and curators that sometimes becomes friendship.

I remember that, the first time we spoke about his practice, one feeling emerged above everything else: he was speaking about life. With Ely, all the rhetoric and superfluous blurb that sometimes surround artistic practice disappear, and you engage in an honest conversation about something that is inherent to the human condition. And his particular own life experience is the material he uses to develop his projects: he wrote thousands of repetitions of his hand signature or his NIE number on big papers with; he documented the spaces he has been, starting from waking up in the morning till laying down in bed at night, while taking the specific time, for 30 consecutive days; he wrote down the name of 1172 people he remember that he know/knew in his life, from the post Childhood Amnesia until April 2018, and described his personal memory of every individual; or he translated his thoughts, feelings and memories in a specific moment and place into words on small white papers, writing consecutively for 6 hours word after word after word; or he counted the people he crosses on some ordinary journeys, giving a little tap on a microphone for every person he crossed by.

Memory, time and space are elemental aspects of Ely’s work. Understanding how what we remember is connected with who we are and where we are become part of our mental processes grounded in action and perception. I…Cognitive Maps-Chapter 1, is a storytelling performance that explores the relationship between place and identity through memory. The cognitive mapping process is a mental representation of the spatial information. It consists in acquisition, memorization, recovering and decoding of environmental information. Ely, who was born in 1986 in East Beirut during the civil war, to a struggling, low-income middle-class family, tell us his childhood and ado-lescence. Trying to remember the plans of the different homes he has lived, he sketches them in an overhead projector that allow us to see them projected on the wall. The archi-tectonic details-as they are remembered or maybe transformed by his memory-become the starting points to enter again both the spaces of the rooms and the time of the past. Trough his sincere words, you realize how the notion of home always felt blurred and hard to be defined or reached, due to political, social, economical and health circumstances. Ely is just there, sitting, drawing and telling us his life, unfolding a narration about some of his personal memories and its links to the particular spaces where it was formulated. With his words he is also giving a glimpse of the culture and traditions he was raised in, and yet the struggle to identify with in the present, marking the evolution of his personality and self. A practice that builds apartments standing on beliefs and memory.

Space-Identity comes from beliefs, meanings, emotions, ideas and attitude assigned to a place. The houses where we grow up, the floors where we played, the beds where we slept, the chairs where we sat, the tables where we ate, or the windows we look trough are totally connected with the socio-political context of our country and the particularities of our family. But, do we remember those places? Are those images we have in our mind real? Which events we keep in our memory, which ones we forgot, which ones are invented?

The differences between the mental representation and the physical characteristics of a location may reveal what humans considers important. Family members confirm sometimes memories of some situations, while some others have no concrete evidence, giving the stories a space in which reality and fiction can merge. In this case, the timeline of the cognitive maps is backed up by Ely’s father’s voice, extracted from recorded conversations via Skype, directing in a way the chronological time frame of the stories and its transitions. The childhood memories are confronted with the adult memories, conforming a particular narration where, despite the specificities and difficulties of growing up in a complex war spatial-temporal context, we all can recognize different aspects of the life of a child and a teenager: brothers playing and fighting, the relations with other relatives and friends, the celebrations and laughs, the fears and insecurities, the first cigarette or the first sex experiences.

Maybe all is about being. About the things we have in common beyond our differences. About the little feelings and affects we all share beyond borders. Yes. At the end, with Ely, it is always about life.

Juan Canella

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Ely Daou was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon in 1986. He completed his Masters in Architecture from Lebanese University-Fine Art Institute in 2010. Since 2012 he is based between Barcelona and Berlin. His body of work is concerned in questioning and protesting many of the world’s human conflict and human nature. As an interdisciplinary artist, Daou puts his body and mind within particular situation for the viewer to watch and consider, or putting the viewer into a physical environment to wander, look and wonder. Time, Repetition and Numbers are key indicators of the process and often work as a means to understand, explore and observe his practice, in which long duration processes and documentations are strongly present. The artist works within the political, social and personal art realm in a way where the viewer has space to think through. His work is not declarative, right or wrong. Daou is simply laying out a situation for consideration and provocation.

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