Benoit Deb­bane: At the Heart of Nos­tal­gia

ArabAd - - CONTENTS -

Benoit Deb­bane is an es­tab­lished Le­banese artist whose sig­na­ture style of de­con­structed pop char­ac­ters and ex­plod­ing comic book heroes il­lus­trated in his pre­cise, bold, and graphic style have be­come a widely recog­nised trade­mark. With the sin­cer­ity and youth­ful en­thu­si­asm of one who is re-liv­ing his child­hood with ev­ery new art­work, Deb­bane talks to Arabad about the rea­sons be­hind his fo­cus on these highly iden­ti­fi­able cul­tural ref­er­ences that have be­come his men­tal li­brary of in­spi­ra­tion as well as the ve­hi­cle for many com­mis­sioned projects.

How come ref­er­enc­ing the past is a re­cur­rent them in your work?

Ref­er­enc­ing the past is just a facet of my work, but giv­ing a new iden­tity to the icons of my past to recre­ate that amaze­ment we had as chil­dren is def­i­nitely a re­cur­rent theme. it's not just a ref­er­ence , it's more like a re­birth , it's all the child­hood heroes in a 2.0 ver­sion.

Al­though your art is ab­so­lutely con­tem­po­rary, it is also retro in its look and feel--yet very much like a far cry from Le­banon's war years that you seem still long­ing to. What's about the mem­ory of Beirut, which you're drawn to and what's be­hind this nos­tal­gia?

Nos­tal­gia is go­ing back to the golden years of our past when the present seems too dull and doesn't give you the joy and amaze­ment you used to feel back then. Even though our past as a war gen­er­a­tion was a pretty tu­mul­tuous one, the chaos was gen­uine, there was a war go­ing on and the lack of safety, wa­ter, elec­tric­ity was le­git­i­mate. Nowa­days, we still lack all those things but it's not be­cause of war, it's just be­cause our gov­ern­ment is cor­rupted and peo­ple are too numb to do some­thing about it; this gives you a sense of shame and hope­less­ness, so to an­swer your ques­tion, I find my child­hood more in­ter­est­ing than what I am wit­ness­ing now.

How do you ex­plain that such pop ref­er­ences--goldo­rak, Bruce Lee etc.-tend to sell more?

They sell more among my gen­er­a­tion, as it brings back that long lost feel­ing of amaze­ment and joy we used to ex­pe­ri­ence when life was sim­pler.

Your work gen­er­ally strikes at the heart of mem­ory, nos­tal­gia and emo­tion. Is that in­ten­tional so peo­ple don't ever for­get the past?

Of course, thank god we have a past... i would give any­thing just to go back to a time where chil­dren didn't need an ipad with a mil­lion apps on it to be happy... Back in the 80's, Pac man, a sling­shot, and a Bruce Lee VHS tape would have made me happy for a long time.

Any­thing you'd like to add?

Adults are bor­ing!

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