Arleb by Nabad interviews Dana Hassan, born in Beirut amid civil war and political instability, and who still lives and works in a city that she loves despite everything.
Arleb by Nabad – What is your background?
Dana Hassan – I hold a BA in Illustration and Comics from the Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts (ALBA) and a BA in Business Administration from the American University of Beirut (AUB).
Arleb by Nabad – What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
Dana Hassan – In October 2019, I was shortlisted among 15 international artists to help raise awareness on the impacts of disaster and environmental changes on our communities and societies. My artwork, If Not Now, When? was on display at The Art of Resilience exhibition – World Bank headquarter in Washington DC. The exhibition was curated from a global call for entries by the World Bank Art Program and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery. This is when I realized that my vision for art became a viable reality and I shall do art that sparks new ideas and aspires to social change.
Arleb by Nabad – Which subjects or themes are you working on?
Dana Hassan – I am currently developing a series of works that help to retrace the collective memory of my city Beirut. The project was launched in times of COVID when I came to the realization of how tremendous this pandemic is likely to impact our lives, as well as challenge our perceptions of what back to normal should be.
Arleb by Nabad – What is your creative process like?
Dana Hassan – The inspiration in my works stems from a long process of rethinking, reforming, and reinventing what I see as art. I am in a continuous process of experimentation with new materials, mediums, textures, and techniques. And this means bringing novelty into my work. There have been many breakthroughs in contemporary art that were shaped by scientific discoveries and emerging technologies, pushing the boundaries of traditional practices. If we look into the future and reimagine what will be the “new contemporary” beyond the realms of the aesthetic, I think there is a vast universe for artists to look into for inspiration and art-science-technology collaborations.
Arleb by Nabad – What was the impact of the Beirut port explosions (August 4, 2020) on your work as an artist/creative enterprise?
Dana Hassan – The Beirut port explosion has had a profound impact on my art, especially on the subject matters of my work as it brought with it so many of my childhood memories in wartime and all the insecurities we still live through. An example of works that I developed following the Beirut blast was ‘Hanging by a Thread’. The artwork was made with mixed media, paper collage and a sewing thread to reflect on a cut and torn city that is constantly struggling to regain life and stability amid political and social unrest. Despite the disparity of the various war and peace elements, it aims to highlight the process of construction and deconstruction and how this cyclical state of city generation becomes a powerful mantra of “building on another chapter” where we are led to a state of hypnotic trance and harmony.
Arleb by Nabad – What are, according to you, the roles of arts and culture in social, economic, environmental or political change?
Dana Hassan – Socially engaging artworks and the exchange of ideas from a large number of international artists can surely help to create a wealth of cultural and artistic expression, empathy, and new understandings.
Arleb by Nabad – What are, according to you, the main challenges/obstacles facing artists/creative enterprises in Lebanon nowadays?
Dana Hassan – Artists need to be part of a much bigger art ecosystem. They need to tap into new resources and collaborations where they can look into the future and explore how they can benefit from and build something useful for their art. It has been challenging, nowadays, to find opportunities where we can benefit from advisory services, exhibitions in key locations; curatorial advice; or collaborations with individuals, communities, and institutions.