De-accessorizing Leadership

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This work is the first iteration in an ongoing investigation of the accessories of leadership in Lebanon. Curator Osman Can Yerebacan invited Mismar to participate in Glass Ceiling: Art of Resilience and Fragility, an exhibition that construes the metaphorical conception of a glass ceiling, defining impalpable challenges imposed on certain groups of individuals while materializing this expression through glass.

Mismar worked on a site-specific installation at the Robert Lehman Gallery in Brooklyn, where the faces of 7 Lebanese leaders were cut in tinted window film and mounted on the gallery’s window. The work takes its departure point from the withdrawal of the face-to-faceness of these leaders, the impossibility of confronting their faces in real life unmediated by television, print media, or the tinted window of their cars amidst paranoiac and frantic convoys. Their public appearances, those pregnant moments for encounter, are cloaked with tinted film that masks the face and mutes response.

The face speaks. The absence of the face is the absence of discourse, the silence of interlocution, and the suspension of responsibility. French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas asserts:

To speak to me is at each moment to surmount what is necessarily plastic in manifestation. To manifest oneself as a face is to impose oneself above and beyond the manifested and purely phenomenal form, to present oneself in a mode irreducible to manifestation, the very straightforwardness of the face to face, without the intermediary of any image, in one’s nudity, that is, in one’s destitution and hunger.

To manifest oneself in attending one’s own manifestation is to invoke the interlocutor and expose oneself to his response and his questioning.