Hassan Khan’s “The Portrait is an Address” is an Anxious Show

Rea Haddad
Staff Writer

   “The Portrait is an Address” is on display at the Beirut Art Center, a spacious gallery where artist Hassan Khan is showcasing video art, photographs, and writings.

  Open until Sunday, November 6, the central theme of this exhibition is portraits: a person in a certain situation, which is most of the time an anxious one. One characteristic common to all the artworks in the exhibition is transparency: the angle is so focused and sometimes the camera is so zoomed in that it denudes the soul or the state of its subject in its true colors.

  Every action, especially in the video art, means something. Every move triggers and even disturbs the viewer’s emotion. Khan’s canvas is the portrait of the human face in its reflective and sometimes anxious state.

  The desire to focus on the details of each human face creates an intimacy between the viewer and the artwork. It feels as if throughout the video, the viewer learns more about the human behind it. The spectator is also sometimes troubled by what is in front of him or her.

  This feeling of discomfort confirms the viewer’s identification with the subject in the video. Hassan Khan’s artworks are almost minimalist in the sense that he films a limited number of actions, he focuses on one repetitive reaction or behavior. Less is more.

  The fact that most of the artworks are ambiguous and unclear makes the viewers introspect their own situation. There’s definitely a tangible tension between the artwork and the viewer, which can border on discomfort, further adding to what can be considered an anxious show.

  “G.R.A.H.A.M” was one of the most remarkable and attention-grabbing videos in the exhibit. The video is slowed down to enhance the details. The continuous eye contact between the subject and the viewer is engaging, and perhaps even interrogating. The video works, which are projected on small or big screens, tend to block your way and almost beckon you to look.

  All in all, the disturbance caused by Hassan Khan’s works is what we all need once in a while. Our destination is sometimes ourselves or, as Khan puts it, “The portrait is an address.”

  We can think of the times when we blamed not ourselves, but everything around us. “The Portrait is an Address” is a reminder that we can sometimes be the cause and effect.

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