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iGabriele Basilico, rue El Marrrad, Beirut, 1991.
© Gabriele Basilico.

On the occasion of the exhibition at the Abbaye de Jumièges, we travel again through Beirut's urban landscapes at the beginning of the Nineties with Gabriele Basilico's images and words, only two years after his passing

«In 1991, the Lebanese writer Dominique Eddé got me involved in a project which had as its objective the photographic documentation of Beirut's central area. The work was created for a group of photographers whose experience would have crossed freely. I found myself working closely with Raymond Depardon, René Burri, Josef Koudelka, Fouad Elkoury, and Robert Frank. The assignment was quite free: nobody was assigned a specific task nor a specific portion of territory. The only common thing was the topographic area which corresponded to the central part of the city. It was restricted by the sea in the North, the orbital road called Ring in the South, the Christian area in the East and the "mixed" area in the West.
It was not about producing a reportage or an inventory, it was instead about composing the “condition of the surroundings”, a direct experience of the place which was committed to free and personal interpretation in a very delicate and unique moment in Beirut's history: the end of the draining war in 1990 which had begun 15 years before (on the 13th of April 1975) and the wait for the announced reconstruction.
An absurd and ruthless war, perversely played on reshuffling the various internal deployments. An exhausting war, fought with small and average arms, which destroyed hundreds of thousands of human lives and razed the city centre. In an area 1 k long by 1,5 k wide, weapons were fired without rest in the streets, from windows, roofs, even in private and holy places, as demonstrated by the bullets of different calibre found in the most undreamed-of corners. The photography had the civil task to contribute to the reconstruction of the historical memory by reporting the human madness.
We all worked in the period between October and December 1991.» (1)

[ Gabriele Basilico ]

(1) - Extract from Basilico/Beirut, La Chambre Claire, Paris 1994.

iGabriele Basilico, contact sheets, from Gabriele Basilico, Beyrouth 1991... Photographies.

iGabriele Basilico, rue Petro Paoli, Beirut, 1991.
© Gabriele Basilico.

iGabriele Basilico, rue Allenby - rue Fakhry Bey.
© Gabriele Basilico.


Gabriele Basilico, Beyrouth 1991... Photographies

curated by Gabriel Bauret and Giovanna Calvenzi
14 March – 25 May 2015

Abbaye de Jumièges - logis abbatial

24, Rue Guillaume le Conquérant - Jumièges (France)

Opening Hours: from Monday to Sunday, 10 am - 12,30 pm and 2,30 pm - 5 pm.
Admission fee: full 6,00 €; groups (min. 20 people) 5,00 €; discounted 4,00 € (18-25 years, big families, teachers showing relevant ID proof); free entry (less than 18 years old – school groups excluded –, unemployed, people on welfare showing relevant ID proof). Groups must book in advance.

Abbaye de Jumièges. © Giovanna Calvenzi.


The documentary Beirut Centre Ville 1991 by Tanino Musso will be shown during the exhibition Gabriele Basilico, Beyrouth 1991... Photographies at the Abbaye de Jumièges from the 14th of March to the 25th of May 2015. The footage is about 17 minutes long and retraces the experience of the photographers Gabriele Basilico, René Burri, Fouad Elkoury, Robert Frank and Sélim Nassib in their documentation of Beirut.
FPmag is honoured to show on these pages a 6 minute extract of the documentary edited by our staff.
A big thank you from all of us goes to Giovanna Calvenzi who granted us access to the footage and for her kind and present collaboration in realising this article.

camera Tanino Musso
musical research Claudio Ricordi
in collaboration with Studio SWE Produzioni Cine-TV Milano
direction Tanino Musso

Gabriele Basilico Gabriele Basilico - Born in Milan in 1944, Basilico attended art school and graduated in Architecture at the Politecnico. His first contact with photography was while studying at university and was mainly focused on social issues. However, very soon his visual and cultural references expand to Bill Brandt's urban peripheries, Ugo Mulas' intellectual openness, Paolo Monti's, Walker Evans' and spouses Becher's rigor and Lewis Baltz's postindustrial landscapes. His first big research is the series Milano. Ritratti di fabbriche, 1978-80, where he identifies and classifies manufactures as possible identifying symbol of the Lombard capital. Between 1974-75, he takes part in the Mission Photographique de la DATAR, a big French public assignment aimed to define the conditions of the landscape at the end of the century. In 1991, he takes pictures of Beirut destroyed by the war. Five years later, he and Stefano Boeri present Sezioni del paesaggio italiano, at the Venice Biennale, a work which aimed to describe the transformations of the stratified national landscape. In the second half of the Nineties, while still working on Milan, he also investigates other cities in order to find the right interpretation of the current urban space (Cityscapes, 1999; Scattered City, 2005).
Gabriele Basilico passed away in Milan on the 13th of February 2013.

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