WHO AM I?
I grew up between the quietude of the French countryside and the always boisterous Beirut. Being of mixed heritage and a globe-trotter BC* has allowed me to explore my identity. This clash of Western and Middle-Eastern cultures provoked me to navigate within distinct cultural landscapes and politics which became my areas of predilection. French-Lebanese multi-media communicator, I wander through the subjects of neo-diasporic identity and archival practices.
My approach to Visual Communication is intuitive and nourished by ‘on-the-field’ media archeology to bring forward a relevant story-telling. Using a collaborative methodology around ideas of collective memory, ’filmic politics’ and cooperative broadcasting, I focus on developing conversational pieces.
In recent years I have collaborated with art galleries & museums (Onomatopée (NL) / MUDAC (Lausanne)), magazines & studios (ISHKAR (London) / Journal Safar (Beirut)) and pop-up exhibitions (Dutch Design Week) to develop strong curation and moderation skills.
I am currently the co-founder and creative director at Export Radio (RCA's radio station), design editor for The Pluralist (RCA's independent newspaper) and contributor for Content-Free.net (RCA VisCom's living archive).
After a baccalaureate in Applied Arts at the École Boulle (Paris), I graduated from a BA at the Design Academy of Eindhoven (NL) in Political and Social Design.
Middle East Now Festival , Florence, IT.
Reykjavik International Film Festival (RIFF), Reykjavik, IS.
Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam, NL.
Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, Oberhausen, GR.
An Evening for Beirut , London, UK.
HOW I WORK
My challenge is to uncover story-telling techniques by mixing traditional filmmaking with new technologies' visual inputs. Being part of documentary production teams and directing small scale video productions as well as a feature-length documentary allowed me to expand my knowledge of moving-image as a preferred medium. I am also a 'cinéphile'. My fascination is less about the image than how the image is made. This 'Making-Of' area of research energizes me.
My relationship with journalism is deeply torn. I picture it as a double-sided coin, both purposeful and corrupted. Information about one of my homelands, Lebanon, is often not depicted correctly. For a long time, I would rather have disregarded this part of my identity than hear people sharing their fantasized visions recounted by the Media. Today, more than ever, I feel the urge to participate in the expansion of voices heard in this field. Acknowledging diverse perspectives that challenge the Western logic and open up the dialogue by lowering the threshold to journalistic jargon and practice. It is this area of friction that I wish to dive into to envision alternative ways to ‘inform’ the public.
Willing to rediscover Media communication in these challenging times, and enhancing Publishing/Art Direction in my practice, I took over the role of design editor for The Pluralist (RCA’s independent newspaper). In this context, I am probing my working method towards inclusive writing and experimental self-publishing as well as having a rich insight into the market’s state of play.
Teamwork became a key element of my practice that I cherish and cultivate. Together with fellow classmates, I recently started an experimental radio platform, Export Radio, based at the RCA. Our station is Internet-based and led by Experimental Communication students. We curate weekly showcases of music, conversation and interview, collected from both RCA students and further afield. This sonic-satellite is an opportunity to re-invigorate the public through worldwide collaboration and discussion across Art and Design universities, by building bridges in a post-Brexit, mid Covid-19 environment. The platform aims to be shared as a legacy project for Experimental Communications at the RCA.
MINI STUDIO, film essay - poster
MINI STUDIO - moodboard
MINI STUDIO - research footage - stills
Director’s statement [extract]
March 2020, the Great lockdown. Louise, French-Lebanese expatriate in London rejoins her family home in France. One afternoon, she re-plunges herself in an indulgent nostalgic frenzy into a bunch of home videos with her parents and siblings. One of them catches her attention: Murr TV Studios in Naccache, Beirut, September 4th 2002. A 6 minutes recording of her 5-year-old-self participating in 90’s MENA’s kids show Mini Studio. Filmed sneakily and shakily backstage, this short life extract triggers an observation by her parents. “You know this episode never made it on TV, right?”
A minute commentary that will settle Louise on a quest to find out about what happened to this episode’s tape and why it never got broadcasted.
My starting point ‘came to me’ as I was waking up from a nap. Striking me like thunder, I couldn’t go pass it. The image is this: a TV broadcasting set, filled with Lebanese kids aged 5-12, in MTV Lebanon (Murr Television, not to confuse with MTV us/uk) studios in Beirut’s outskirts.
The red hue of Mini Studio’s logo fills in the room. The backdrops, the shirts all kids are wearing. The exact instant a kid pointed at intensely by a cameraman. The lens touches almost his face as the technician gets an extreme close up of the kid smiling and singing. Next to him, there’s me, aged 5, visibly confused and fascinated by the situation. This is this exact instant, this flash of event, that I saw on my nap awakening.
This ‘archive’ footage I’m describing here sits between the public and private sphere. My familial context and the more global societal, historical context in Lebanon.
“How?”, you may ask.
The following day at 5pm, MTV studios got raided by the Syrian army and Lebanese police. All journalists and staff got kicked out, live on television. Accused of “illicit propaganda” and "disturbing the relations of Lebanon with a brother country (Syria)", this independent channel was “closed permanently”*. These accusations were the result of MTV’s documentation and broadcast of protests against the Syrian regime earlier in 2001/2002.
WHO AND WHY?
As a child (in the early 2000’s), I participated in the kids show Mini Studio. Thinking back about this show, I became interested in its identity and its truly peculiar story. A 30 years-old program broadcasted from Beirut and accessible to children throughout the MENA region and around the world thanks to satellite television. The use of 3 interlaced languages also contributed to making it a cultural anchor for kids in the region and those who were part of the diaspora. To reinforce this aspect, the show's goodies such as albums or VHS tapes were available in Virgin Megastores, again, a Western outreach to the wider audience. It's also 22 musicals, 300 characters, 220 songs, summer camps, shopping mall activations, parties. It was a "first" in the region. Every day, on free television, the children sat down at 6:30 p.m. sharp to watch it. Appearing just after the war ended in 1990, I can't stress enough how the historical background to this show's birth was more than unlikely to allow this to happen. How do you address an audience of children who are potentially traumatized or who are growing up in always conflicting geopolitical situations? After Beirut’s blast, last summer on 4th of August, the show stopped broadcasting for a few weeks before getting back on Youtube. How do you again address kids after such an event?
The ‘subject’, Mini Studio, is part of a collective memory. It does not belong to me. It doesn’t even belong to its ‘creator’, who, over time, has lost all copyrights on it. It became part of a shared experience. Legitimated by the fact that this was anyway a kids show, a public service broadcast for the masses.
Starting from this archive, the idea for this short film essay was then born from a personal and professional inquiry triggered in my practice: “Where do I belong?”
A vast and arguably naive question. However, it seems like my generation has entered a process of ‘awakening’ in terms of the politics of identity. The so-called ‘wokeness’ we get ourselves entitled to take part in. In the midst of a global pandemic crisis, we also find ourselves having the best ‘excuse’ to finally take time to step back and reflect on where we come from. Being a second generation Middle-Eastern immigrant, I feel part of a neo-diaspora. Sent on what appears like a reverse-crusade to take back control on how ‘our’ story is told, we are viscerally intrigued by the perception of people over our cultural upbringing; at the crossroads of Middle-Eastern and Western confluences. By using nostalgia as a universal thread for sharing this story and Mini Studio as a case study to catalyse my inquiries, I am hoping to share a conversational piece. I attempt to instigate a conversation rather than putting a specific show ‘on trial’. The innocence of childhood will then meet the mediated authenticity of TV broadcasting sets. And in front of the TV monitor, a 20+ year-old reconnecting with an almost 20-year-old memory.
What subjects am I then tackling in this short film essay?
- Diaspora and cultural identity construction
- Censorship and tensions in children’s TV broadcast
- Arab Futurism (imagining speculative narratives for a generation seeking out a “better life”).
*(until its reopening, only 7 years later in March 2009, after complicated political discussions and parliament votes).
Medium:Moving Image, Interview, Media Archeology
RCA2021 WIP SHOW at Export Radio
Logotype - visual experiment
Backstage documentation - Ridley Road Social Club residency
Our station is Internet-based and led by Experimental Communication students at the Royal College of Art of London. We curate weekly showcases of music, conversation and interview, collected from both RCA students and further afield. This sonic-satellite is an opportunity to re-invigorate the public through worldwide collaboration and discussion, whilst also building bridges in a post-Brexit, mid-Covid-19 environment.
WHY & HOW?
Used as knowledge-sharing and collaborative platform, Export Radio offers a parallel space for students to reflect on WHAT they are learning about, but especially HOW they are taught at the RCA. In the context of the Work in Progress show, students felt the need to find a more humane and interactive way to share their work, their concerns regarding the institution they are studying in, but also their professionnalisation. WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT, once we leave the RCA?
Following this thought, the team at Export has put together a 24hours Livestream which will feature performances, roundtables, Q&As… It will offer students another format for visibility, getting their voices heard within and outside the ‘walls’ of the RCA. To close-up the Work in Progress show week, Export is organising an AFTERPARTY open to all! Starting with a workshop on EXperimental COMmunity Radios hosted by RCA tutors and students alike, the party will then carry on with DJ sets takeovers from 5pm onwards. Keep tuned!
We’re looking forward to ‘hear’ from you and meet you on our audio-visual waves!
Both events will be hosted on Export Radio’s website : www.exportradio.club
POSTERS BY: Dougal Verinder Gedge
LOGOTYPE & VISUALS BY: Louise Gholam
Medium:Radio, Digital curation, Creative direction
Open call poster (risograph print) & Issue cover (digital release).
So near, and yet, so far - spreads
" So near, and yet, so far… Can’t think of a more fitting phrase to describe the feeling. Producing a newspaper in such a context has revealed itself to be a challenge. But not impossible. Confined in my tiny student room, in a desperately silent London, it was a relief going to university to edit and print. Almost a therapeutic practice.
This issue has been articulated between two Zoom rooms, Lera’s and mine. Being a lucky second year ‘insider’ at the RCA for this term, I had the ‘privilege’ to experience some semblance of studio life. Coming in university to disperse posters in empty corridors felt uncanny to say the least. But not vain! That is maybe the true beauty of newspapers publishing. Preparing the dissemination of content behind closed doors and releasing it into the open space, to a yet unknown public.
It was important to reflect the peculiar environment in which we produced our first edition for The Pluralist. Between digitally-made visuals and printed iterations, this issue was based on the idea of compromising the highly sanitized online realm we’ve been venturing with acquiescence these last months, with a rougher, messier, ‘contaminated’ matter.
Reflecting on proximity and what it means nowadays, was an arguably tricky opening enquiry. Yet it allowed a wide range of formats to emerge from this question. This was maybe what was the most enjoyable part of curating this issue. How can we introduce ourselves when we can’t physically meet? How do encounters take place in an ever-growing environment of isolation and uncertainty? Far from being a pessimistic publication, we wanted to revive the thrive for community sharing. Fictitious and/or palpable. Near and far at the same time.
If I can be honest with you, dear reader, I wish I could have printed hundreds of this issue in the hubbub of the letterpress or risograph workshop. I wish I could have then dropped them in piles in boisterous studios and cafeterias. I could have handed you these newspapers. Maybe, we could have shared a coffee and discussed the content. This didn’t happen unfortunately. Not this time. Soon enough though, we will meet in person, I’m sure of that!
Until then, stay safe and enjoy a good read!
Louise Gholam, Design Editor "