May 21 — July 2, 2011
Annabel Daou was born and raised in Beirut, during the Lebanese Civil War. She moved to New York at age 18 to attend Barnard College at Columbia University. Her most recent work has dealt with translation and transliteration, using English text phonetically transliterated into Arabic. She represented the United States in the 2010 Cairo Biennial and will represent Lebanon in the 54th Venice Biennial in June of 2011.
America is a monumental drawing assembled from 20 sheets of paper that creates a 7-foot by 13-foot composition. Text in its many forms – sound, substance, symbol and texture – fills the paper. The words are drawn from numerous sources, each in some way involved with America and the American experience: literature, history, poetry, politics, music, popular culture, and sociology (Hannah Arendt, Cioran, William Faulkner, Aldous Huxley, Thomas Jefferson, Allen Ginsberg, George Oppen, Arthur Miller, Bernadette Mayer, The Ramones, Bob Dylan, George Washington and George Bush.) Each was transcribed in pencil as it was read, in the manner of Bartleby. Together the texts form lines that crisscross each other to create geological, cultural, and metaphysical structures. From a distance, America reads as landscape, a war painting, a map, and a document. Up close, it is legible only in fragments, though the texts have been transcribed verbatim.
It is impossible to read America as a whole, or all at once. The accumulation of words forms a sense of place, creates meaning and eradicates meaning. The composition is erased as it is defined (a work of art, a country) since any one definition eclipses the others. The act of reading is a performance of this occlusion. America is an exploration of limits and limitlessness across time and between people, composed of the words that bind and divide us. The documents that make up America were selected unsystematically. They represent the individual experiences and discoveries of its creators. The accumulation of documents begins to convey a sense of the monumental weight of American ideas.