My art is my weapon. I intend to use it to fight. To fight terrorism, injustice, war, religious discrimination, racism, and anything art can overcome.
September 11, 2001: 146, Chambers Street, New York. This is where I was when the world was shaken by that terrifying incident. I witnessed it first hand and, like thousands of New-Yorkers living in Tribeca, was forced out of my apartment for weeks. These weeks gave me a lot to think about and triggered a multitude of memories, memories of the civil war in Beirut. Hundreds of thousands died in the name of religion and patriotism.
My memories of Beirut, though tender and nostalgic, are also painful. I spent all my adolescence in a war-torn country. Weapons and militias were part of the daily scenery. We lived among them. They were the first we saw when we woke up and the last we heard when we went to bed. Feelings were different then. A child has no sense of danger. I could not understand the unreasonable fear that overtook my mother when I stepped out of the house. What could happen to me? I felt immortal. As I grew older, my memories, although blurred, became more painful. Life in “safe” parts of the world made me feel secure. Paris and New York gave me snapshots of peaceful moments…until 9/11. All my memories resurfaced more ghastly than before. For good reason: I was an adult. Over the years, I had passively and remotely witnessed, several wars, the enrolment of child soldiers, terrorism, famine, the exodus of refugees, and anything the media was happy to serve us for the evening news. However, an event of this extent was inconceivable. In my mind, New York was the last place in the world where it could occur.
In the weeks following 9/11, I lived as a “refugee” – I was: a displaced person in the event of a disaster, with no place to go, relying on the kindness of friends and strangers. During this time, an idea snuck into my mind. We have to fight terrorism with everything we have got. Part of my childhood was destroyed by people using weapons to spread destruction. How do I fight them? I only have art. I will use it as my weapon. I will strip myself to the bone if that is what it takes. We are all alike: Jews, Christians, Muslims, Whites, Blacks, Arabs, Africans, Europeans, Blonds, blue-eyed and slit-eyed. Peeled of his/her outer shell, the human being is unrecognizable. We are all afraid of difference. But are we so different? Can you tell my ethnicity from my skeleton?
I began to gather testimonies and started to work on my project. I want to promote tolerance. This is the legacy of my father. Fear has instigated an increase in intolerance, suspicion. Who is the guy next door? “Is he going to blow the building?”
Since 9/11 the world has changed. And I have changed too. I want to be a better man…