72 Hrs With Lebanese Artist Kiki Bokassa

Mainstream media has painted Lebanon as a country wrangled in constant political instability. In April 2009, Lebanese artist Kiki Bokassa decided to challenge those negative stereotypes by projecting Lebanon as a country of art and culture.

While confined behind a glass curtain, Kiki painted for 72 consecutive hours -- without sleep -- before a live audience both via HD screens located outside the venue and on the Internet.

I had a chance to speak with Kiki about the project and here's what she had to say:

Why did you create the 72 Hrs project?

Because I and so many people I know have a voice.

72 Hrs was created gradually after someone asked me what I wished to have for my birthday. For 72 hours it was on every news, locally and internationally, yet it wasn’t a blast, a bomb, or a fight.

During the legislative election period, I wanted this event to cast shadow over all the media exposure that’s usually dedicated to elections. I wanted to be the mosquito in the room. I didn’t have any clear demands.

During the small press conference held days before 72Hrs, I mentioned how disappointed I am in the government for the lack of financial aid we as artists have, or sustainable programs, to help us sell our work to institutions.

What is the situation for artists in Lebanon?

Artists pay taxes when registered as freelancers, but do not get anything in return, not even social security or reductions over certain things. Art material has became so expensive that it's difficult for anyone to become an artist. With a few laws or policies applied for the benefit of artists, Lebanon could become on the top list of artistic and cultural tourism in the region.

In Europe, many artists occupy deserted buildings illegally. It’s time for us to start doing that. Otherwise many artists will not be able to afford a workshop, which could be an interesting site for a viewer or a tourist to visit.

What was the message you wanted to convey?

I enjoyed seeing the looks of passersby whenever I used a color that is politicized. As you may know, political parties hold even colors in Lebanon hostage. And this is the message. I claim the right to free those colors from politics and to set them free again like any color in the universe.

People tend to be judgmental and my intention through 72Hrs was surely to forget about the influence of political affiliations in our daily life. It is enough that we live under the threat of war and have to cope with that feeling daily.

This frustration is also an essential part of my inspiration, as sad as it may sound.

My proudest moment at the end was to come out alive, and having been able to control as much as possible my mind and body in order to create under very strict conditions, you have to have inner peace.

To view some of the amazing art produced during the event, check out Kiki's blog, SPF 50+, and to get a glimpse of some her other creations visit Art Slant.