Omar Mismar is a visual artist born in Beirut, Lebanon. He holds a BFA in Graphic Design from the American University of Beirut. As a practicing professional, he has worked at Mind the gap, a design studio in Beirut with a varied portfolio in designing publications, periodicals, campaigns, corporate identities, advertisements, and cultural projects. He is involved in design-related research and artistic production. He is a participating artist in the Queer Geography Workshop in Beirut and is part of the team for producing a book and an exhibition. He joined the department of Architecture and Design at the American University of Beirut in Spring 2011 as a part-time teacher. Awarded the Fulbright scholarship for 2012–2014, he is currently pursuing an MFA in Fine Arts-Social Practice and an MA in Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts.
His art practice is interdisciplinary and fueled by the idea of the everyday: what people do in the city, how we go about our routines, our free and alone time, our private versus public lives. Walking, intervening, subverting, resisting, satirizing, conversing, imagining, narrating, and browsing steer his practice. He is fascinated by the figure of the detective.
A Poetic Occupation: Artistic Gestures in Zones of Conflict
The aestheticization of politics and the politicization of aesthetics create gravitational forces on artworks unfolding in zones of conflict, such as Lebanon. Sucked to either pole, the artist cannot seem to escape. But what if the escape from this polarity is through dwelling on it, creating a space within or beyond it? This is the space of the poetic gesture.
By looking at Starry Night, a sound piece performed by Lebanese artist Mazen Kerbaj during the 2006 July War, this talk wagers on the workings of poetic gestures in spaces of political conflict. A poetic gesture does something beyond being relegated to the realm of the aesthetic, dismissed as an apolitical escape, or injected with steroids of resistance. If art is to partake in this struggle meaningfully, neither through propaganda nor activism, but though what is closest to us—our everyday realities and experiences—then we can start investigating a poetics and a politics of small gestures. I argue for a poetic occupation that creates a nook, a break in tension of the political situation, within which new possibilities and modes of thought are possible.