My artwork examines how people and spaces become polarized as a result of binary divisions. During my formative years, Beirut was characterized by perpetual conflict—political alliances shifted regularly, often culminating in armed clashes. Those who shared geographical and socioeconomic markers of identity with political factions were seen as being a part of such alliances, and, consequently, were considered “accomplices” to the perpetuation of civil tensions.
In response to these divisions, I conceptualized a space, the Third-Half, in which individuals exist outside of factionalized communities. The Third-Half functions as an umbrella under which I produce my work, highlighting divergent narratives of the Middle East, including Western interventions and regional strife.
Action + Change
And Then . . . is a serialized work of video animation. Chapter 1, Now, depicts rival battalions in Beirut as individual cells that merge, disperse, dance, and attack. Chapter 2, Scenarios of Return, visits the British Mandate of Palestine. My avatar manifests itself in Jaffa, where my father was born, to fight the British and reverse history.
Zeina Barakeh (born 1972, Beirut) is a Lebanese-Palestinian artist based in San Francisco. Barakeh obtained her BA in interior design from the Lebanese American University, Beirut, and her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. Her artwork examines how people and spaces become polarized as a result of binary divisions. Through animation, digital media, and archival installations, she interrogates constructions of identity, history, memory, and territory.
Selected solo and two-person exhibitions include Facettes, Espace SD Gallery, Beirut, 2005; Passages, Golden Thread’s ReOrient Festival, Theater Artaud, San Francisco, 2009; The Third-Half, Anspacher Galleries, The Public Theater, New York, 2011; and Jaffa Mangoes: History, Memory, and Myth, Ictus Gallery, San Francisco, 2012. Group exhibitions include Printemps de la peinture, Martyrs’ Square, Beirut, 1995; Beyond Tradition, Illusion Gallery, Kuwait City, 2004; Journée des peintres, Deir El-Qamar Festival, Chouf, Lebanon, 2004, 2005; Plastic Arts, Middle East University, Sabtieh, Lebanon, 2006; Internal Exile: From Palestine to the USA to Mexico, SOMArts Bay Gallery, San Francisco, 2007; The Token Woman Show, Diego Rivera Gallery, San Francisco Art Institute, 2007; and Proliferations, Rhodes & Fletcher, LCC/OFF-Space, San Francisco, 2009.
Barakeh’s work has been written about in the following Beirut newspapers and journals: The Daily Star/International Herald Tribune, L’Orient-Le Jour, An-Nahar, Al-Mustaqbal, Al-Liwaa, La Revue du Liban, and Al-Ousbou’ Al-Arabi. Her work has been featured on Future TV, Beirut; Heya TV, Arab Woman Channel, Beirut; and on Arab Talk, KPOO 89.5 FM, in San Francisco. Barakeh’s paintings have appeared in various publications, including the cover of Patricia Sarrafian Ward’s novel The Bullet Collection (Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, 2003) and the Beirut-based arts magazine L’Agenda Culturel.
Barakeh received the Sheikh Zayed Fine Arts Award from the Lebanese American University in Beirut, and two artist residencies from the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, among other accolades.
She currently serves as Director of Graduate Administration and Visiting Faculty at the San Francisco Art Institute. In 2012, she initiated the co-curricular arts platform No Reservations Art, which links MFA students with professional opportunities in the art world.