Poster illustration by Helmi Tourni
In her writings on both 1960s post-colonial Lebanon and the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) Zeina Maasri has produced numerous fascinating books exploring the development of posters and graphic design in Lebanon. Her book, Cosmopolitan Radicalism: The Visual Politics of Beirut’s Global Sixties, uncovers the transnational circuits that animated Arab modernist pursuits and sheds light on the forgotten trajectories and graphic design practices of its protagonists: Egyptian, Iraqi, Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian artists who wove through Beirut, in and out of its flourishing art galleries, publishing industry and political movements. She conceives of Beirut’s long 1960s “as a liminal juncture, an anxious time and space when the city held out promises at once politically radical and radically cosmopolitan.” Likewise, in her book, Off the Wall: Political Posters of the Lebanese Civil War Zeina Maasri explores the history of poster design in Lebanon during the civil war from 1975-1990. Acknowledging the absence of a singular hegemonic voice, and critiquing the discourse of ‘propaganda’, Maasri explores how aesthetic styles and themes of leadership, commemoration, martyrdom and belonging are portrayed in posters. Although Maasri is keen to emphasise that there is no singular cohesive style, or singular ideological binary, posters nonetheless became a symbolic site of struggle that often drew influence from Palestinian struggles, Iranian revolutionary politics, modernist aesthetics, graphic design, post-colonial struggles, communist revolutionary imagery, and traditional Arab art, such as calligraphy and two-dimensional Islamic miniature paintings. In this session we will be talking to Zeina Maasri about the history of Lebanon, its posters, visual art and design, and how this might help us think about Lebanon and transnational solidarity today.
Zeina Maasri is a senior lecturer at the University of Bristol. Her books include Off the Wall: Political posters of the Lebanese Civil War (2009), Cosmopolitan Radicalism: The Visual Politics of Beirut’s Global Sixties (2020) and she’s co-editor of the recently published Transnational Solidarity: Anticolonialism in the Global Sixties.
This session was recorded as part of the Exploding Appendix Avant-garde Art Practice and Research Group on the 21st September 2022. If you would like to be involved in future sessions send me a message at explodingappendix [at] gmail.com.
Podcasts: Podcasts – Exploding Appendix