Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Caravanserai in the Levant
A Photography Exhibition by Tom Schutyser, Belgian Traveler and Photographer on Oktober 27th- November 7th 2010 at Art Lounge, Karantina, Beirut.

Tom Schutyser: For centuries, the caravanserais served as staging posts in the Middle East and Central Asia along the famous caravan routes of the Silk Road. Thousands of these caravanserais were built offering services along the trade routes and in cities, accommodating traders, pilgrims and other travelers.

Today many caravanserais are crumbling ruins, relics of flourishing and thriving days in the past in the Middle East and Central Asia. Many more have vanished or have been swallowed by cities. Some survive, offering their useful compound layout for such facilities as hotels, museums, storage or garrison posts. Built as roadside inns in this network of trade routes crossing international boundaries, connecting China and the Western world overland, these caravanserais were a platform for prosperous commercial and multicultural exchange, mutually benefiting all parties, surviving numerous political, military, religious and economic calamities.

“Caravanserais in the Levant” is the 2nd stage of my photography project about the caravanserais in Middle East and Central Asia, presenting the caravanserais as a metaphor for successful international exchange and communication between Middle East and West, between Muslim and Western worlds.

The 1st stage of the project included my travels and photography on the Silk Road in Iran, Central Asia, Pakistan and China and resulted in a research on the caravanserai and website publication; exhibitions in Portland, Oregon, USA (2008); and Paris, France (2009) in a collab with School of Architecture ENSA-PVS.

In this 2nd stage, after travels and photography in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan last year, I am preparing a new series of exhibitions, as well as a book. And here Kickstarter kicks in.

The exhibition series will carry the title “Caravanserais in the Levant”;
A first teaser exhibition is ongoing at Springbox gallery in Portland showing a first small selection of photos, on a caravanserai at the Byzantine site of Al Resafa in Syria;

An exhibition with the first showing of the full photography series is now being prepared for mid October in Beirut, Lebanon in collab with Art Lounge gallery;
Before moving to the gallery, we will open the exhibition in a historical building which is also the gallery’s first showing there;
The exhibition will combine and juxtapose B/W and color photography;
I am further preparing for a series of exhibitions ideally in another location in Middle East, in 2-3 locations in Europe, and 2-3 locations in USA.

As for the book, just like when traveling in the Middle East, I got warm, engaging interactions on this subject with so many regular folks, now I turn to Middle East experts, writers and journalists;
The book is meant to be in "collage"-style combining photography material, documentary & travel notes, and writings on current international affairs in Middle East and in its relations with the Western world;
So far 10 journalists, writers, experts on the Middle East are committed to contribute with text material, in the form of an article, a letter, an interview or dialogue, it can be a story or a poem, ….

One such article was already published in The Independent, Saturday 24 July 2010,
by Robert Fisk: “We should mourn these desert staging posts”

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