What is In Medias Res? It is the man watching you on surveillance camera "for your own safety". It is Juvenal's who watches the watchmen? It is Oscar Wilde's "we are all living in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars". It is "just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean they're not out to get you". It is the "houdou2 hazer" (cautious calm) that used to be code word for "go there at your own risk" during the Lebanese war on radio stations.
It is a land where political paradigms and alliances shift like an Orwellian 1984ish nightmare, where yesterday’s enemies are today's bedfellows and tomorrow's once more arch-rivals. It is a place where everything happens and yet nothing changes since everyone is stuck on loop. It is a country where narratives are so mutating and changing one cannot tell what really happened. It is a city best summed up by Bill Farrell (the New York Times late correspondent in Beirut during the war) who said "there’s no truth in Beirut, only versions".
When the narrative itself becomes the meaning, the context, and the history of the words themselves, when the story is itself the medium and the message, when the viewer is both passive and active with his/her own acts becoming subject and object of the event, when the question itself hold the answer within but only to open itself on further interpretation when found, this – indeed – makes you wonder if you live in Lebanon under the current sociopolitical circumstances.
When time itself is stuck in a loop inspired by Gödel, when parallel universes and ghosts of Christmas past cohabitate with current beings and projected selves into the future, when stories shuttle between "erase and rewind" and "repeat ad infinitum" – simultaneously – it is then that we know that events have no clear starts, no absolute closures, but are rather stuck in a purgatory that neither pulls them to hell nor draws them closer to heaven such as is the case in present day Lebanon.
In Medias Res (Latin: In the midst of things) is the artistic technique of telling a narrative from its middle as opposed to its beginning, opening with dramatic action rather than following a linear chronological order. The title lent itself for an interdisciplinary and inter-media art project that focuses on the role of art and its meaning in a globalized world where uncertainty permeates all levels of society – be it existential, cultural, financial or political.
The works, technically complex, interactive, and conceptually challenging played on the element of insecurity and pitted themselves against the reality of day to day life. As tension (conflict) which was artistically created surpassed the usual practices of interpersonal relations and offered the possibility to ponder on the origins and dynamics of the unease. So, instead of building walls between disciplines, In Medias Res tried to combine participants coming from different walks of life into one common blender as they discover how they can re-appropriate their surroundings.
By controlling the unease and becoming watchers themselves, by using surveillance or manipulating sounds or sensory experiences, by delving into national identity in acts of memory-defiance, the artists managed to transform the present into insta-history, as events were happening, rebroadcasted for reaffirmation as proof, and redirected towards the viewer – who is also the instigator – making "the" history turn into "a" history and therefore questioning its ubiquity for posterity.
In parallel as past events still carry their weight in Lebanon in a twisted rationale of "even if you showed me the video, it didn’t happen", the fact of reframing stories into events which tackle the collective memory is still considered taboo simply because there has been no consensus as to what happened – despite of it happening.
Basing themselves on the premise of Robert Frost’s lines "You’re searching Joe, for things that don’t exist; I mean beginnings. Ends and beginnings – there are no such things. There are only middles."" (Mountain Interval (1920) 5. In the Home Stretch, Line 187-192), the artists, by acknowledging that there are no "beginnings" or "ends" tried to come to terms with the "middles" they live on a daily basis in a land of tangible and intangible conflicts.
What is In Medias Res? It is the schizo-frame-ia with multiple identities held in a container stopping them from falling apart. It is the Kundera's "unbearable lightness of being" but also his "risible loves". It is a Kafkaesque nightmare of a man turning into a cockroach but afraid of losing his exoskeleton. It is Garcia Marquez's "One hundred years of solitude" and also his "love in the time of cholera". It is a state of mind, a state of minding your business. But fear not, Big Brother is watching you on surveillance camera "for your own safety".