Etel Adnan’s Sun and Sea: In Remembrance

19 November, 2021

 

Etel Adan, from her 2016 sun and sea series (cour­tesy Sfeir Sem­ler Gallery, Hamburg:Beirut).

 

Arie Amaya-Akkermans

 

Is a chronol­o­gy pos­si­ble in poet­ry? Does one read an author’s work begin­ning with the first poems and then pass­ing through the mid­dle before reach­ing his or her final poems? What exact­ly is there in the mid­dle and where does their poet­ry end? And what do we mean by a final poem? 

With the depar­ture of Etel Adnan (1925 — 2021) last week­end, per­haps the great­est Lebanese poet of her gen­er­a­tion, and a con­tem­po­rary painter of renown in her own coun­try for decades, (her recog­ni­tion by the inter­na­tion­al art cir­cuit arrived late, when her work was dis­cov­ered by Car­o­line Chris­tov-Bakargiev and exhib­it­ed at Doc­u­men­ta in 2012; by then she was 87 years old), we become con­front­ed with the ter­ri­ble truth that she had in fact fore­warned us of her last stanzas. 

In Octo­ber 2020, in con­ver­sa­tion with Hans Ulrich Obrist, she spoke clear­ly: “My last book is about real­iz­ing that I am going to die. It’s dif­fer­ent to know and to feel it, and it’s as if life hap­pens in silence. There is behind the noise of dai­ly life a silence that we hear, anoth­er noise, a shift­ing silence. This silence has changed the focus of con­scious­ness. That’s my last book.” It’s a mod­est book, apho­ris­tic, sparse, and slow.

Shift­ing the Silence is avail­able from Night­boat.

The book was pub­lished in Sep­tem­ber 2020, and it’s titled Shift­ing the Silence, for many a famil­iar ele­gy to the con­fine­ment, then some­what new but now ubiq­ui­tous and ever return­ing to our lives in the pan­dem­ic present-at-large:

“Yes. The shift­ing, after the return of the tide, and my own. A ques­tion rush­es out of the still­ness, and then advances an inch at a time: has this day ever been before, or has it risen from the shal­lows, from a line, a sound?”

End­less rows of days that look ever the same, and that move in no spe­cif­ic direc­tion, in a kind of real­ly tedious, overex­tend­ed, fluc­tu­at­ing eter­ni­ty. Yet, these frag­ments of expe­ri­enced time, coex­ist with the untime­ly med­i­ta­tions (to para­phrase Niet­zsche) of a then 95-year-old poet, weary from the cease­less col­lapse of his­tor­i­cal time: 

“I am wear­ing the rose col­or of Syria’s moun­tains and I won­der why it makes me rest­less. Often my body feels close to sea crea­tures, sticky, slimy, unpre­dictable, more ephemer­al than need be. From there I have to pro­ceed, as an avalanche of snow falls. That’s what the radio has just said: that entire vil­lages have been made invis­i­ble. But they are far­away: the news nev­er cov­ers my imme­di­ate envi­ron­ment.” 

For some­one who lived almost through an entire cen­tu­ry, from the cre­ation of Lebanon and the tragedy of Pales­tine to the pan­dem­ic, pass­ing through both the Viet­nam War as an Amer­i­can poet and the Lebanese Civ­il War as a not so silent wit­ness, con­fine­ment wasn’t new. In “To be in a Time of War,” pub­lished in 2005, you find what it feels like a reflec­tion on Beirut in the 1970s, but also in the 1980s, but also in the 1990s, but also today and ever. It is a reflec­tion on the help­less­ness of sit­ting at home and wait­ing for it all to end:

“To say noth­ing, do noth­ing, mark time, to bend, to straight­en up, to blame one­self, to stand, to go toward the win­dow, to change one’s mind in the process, to return to one’s chair, to stand again, to go to the bath­room, to close the door, to go to the kitchen, to not eat not drink, to return to the table, to be bored, to take a few steps on the rug, to come clos­er to the chim­ney, to look at it, to find it dull, to turn left until the main door, to come back to the room, to hes­i­tate, to go on, just a bit, a tri­fle, to stop, to pull the right side of the cur­tain, then the oth­er side, to stare at the wall.”

And so on. The poem goes on for an entire twelve pages, replete of pos­si­ble actions that can be enter­tained while wait­ing. You can feel here the acid despair of poet­ic micro­physics: Etel Adnan, like Paul Celan, has com­plete­ly stripped lan­guage of adorn­ment. This lan­guage can now wound you and leave cuts. There’s no space to breathe. And then it is fol­lowed by an ago­niz­ing silence. 

“Hori­zon 1” 2020, cour­tesy of the artist and Galerie Lelong & Co. Paris and New York City.

That is how I turned to this poem to help me think through Agen­da 1979, (in an essay writ­ten for this pub­li­ca­tion), the exper­i­men­tal opera by Gre­go­ry Buchakjian and Valerie Cachard about a war­fare man­u­al by a Pales­tin­ian fight­er found in an aban­doned apart­ment in Beirut. When you’re faced with the unspeak­able, you need to speak in silent signs.

But speak­ing about silence, and how to shift it, was for Etel Adnan, the thinker and poet of Beirut and Paris, of Sauza­l­i­to and Erquy, some­thing much larg­er than a med­i­ta­tion about final­i­ty or the license for poet­ic silence that fol­lows from the end. This is because the ends are end­less; the end of life, the end of war, the end of love, but also, some­times, the hap­py end of suf­fer­ing. Silence in Etel the poet, is the fun­da­men­tal unit of think­ing, and the way in which thought attempts to trans­late itself into the inner voice. For Etel, the painter, paint­ing was the attempt to break through the silence that words cre­ate around us.

In a recent paint­ing, “Hori­zon I,” exe­cut­ed through the pan­dem­ic in Paris, you can see  how the waves of the sea, cir­cles of astral bod­ies and the squared-shaped col­or fields, asso­ci­at­ed with her paint­ing, give way to soft, pas­tel, hor­i­zon­tal lines, point­ing indeed at a shift in direc­tion. But these hor­i­zon­tal lines speak of inter­minabil­i­ty, rather than of final­i­ty, which one will have to search for else­where (geo­met­ric lines and sta­sis can be found also else­where in her painting). 

Etel Adnan began paint­ing in 1959, at the age of 34, while teach­ing the phi­los­o­phy of art at Domini­can Col­lege in San Rafael, Cal­i­for­nia (she had stud­ied phi­los­o­phy at Berke­ley and Har­vard). As a self-taught artist, Etel’s style did not real­ly belong to any schools and was inti­mate­ly bound with her par­tic­u­lar sense of obser­va­tion, her thought trains and of course, her poet­ry. And how could Etel Adnan belong any­way? Born in Beirut to a Syr­i­an mil­i­tary offi­cer and a Greek woman from Smyr­na (the present-day Izmir in Turkey), who fled to Lebanon after the Great Fire of Smyr­na that brought the Greek pres­ence in Ana­to­lia to an end, Smyr­na would remain one of Etel’s obses­sions, even though she nev­er vis­it­ed it: 

“Izmir was like a lost par­adise at home. We would cry when we men­tioned the city. When I saw huge clouds on the hori­zon as a child, I would ask, ‘Is this Izmir?’ And when­ev­er I went to the beach in Beirut to swim, I would say, ‘I am going to Izmir.’”

Still from “ISMYRNA” (2016), HD video, French with Eng­lish sub­ti­tles, 50 ms, cour­tesy Joana Had­jithomas & Khalil Joreige.

In 2016, Lebanese artists and film­mak­ers Joana Had­jithomas and Khalil Jor­eige, released their film Smyr­na, entire­ly based on their jour­ney to Izmir, where they were meant to trav­el with Etel, to inter­ro­gate their attach­ment to an imag­i­nary Smyr­na, since both Joana and Etel shared roots among the Greeks of the Ottoman Empire who fled to Lebanon after the cat­a­stro­phe. Even­tu­al­ly, they would trav­el with­out Etel who could no longer trav­el by plane, and the bulk of the film is the con­ver­sa­tion between Had­jithomas and Adnan, recount­ing their mem­o­ries; truth, fic­tion, parafic­tion, the lines are blurred. “The only thing that remains is oral trans­mis­sion, so recount­ing for us prac­ti­cal­ly meant sur­viv­ing,” says Etel to Joana in the film, as they exam­ine videos and pho­tographs of the real Izmir, jux­ta­posed to the imag­ined Smyrna.

Recent­ly, Had­jithomas told Kari­na El Helou and me in an inter­view about the inter­sec­tion between their work and poet­ry, and specif­i­cal­ly the expe­ri­ence of work­ing with Etel Adnan on the film: “In many of our projects, Khalil and me, we like to work with oth­ers, to col­lab­o­rate, or to bor­row the eyes, the words of oth­ers, the knowl­edge, whether it is from archae­ol­o­gists, jour­nal­ists or geol­o­gists, or poets. In this case, for poet­ry, the poems that we recall, are the cen­ter of those works, like the poem of Cavafy, or the one of Seferis, but also the pres­ence of Etel, it’s some­thing beyond, she’s the poet­ry her­self. Her pres­ence was pure poet­ry all the time.”

Still from “Sea and Sun” (2021), HD video, French with Eng­lish sub­ti­tles, 17 min­utes, cour­tesy of Lamia Joreige.

In the dia­logues in the film, as in dif­fer­ent inter­views of the artist and poet, it’s dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish the bound­ary between Etel Adnan’s poet­ry and mem­o­ries and philo­soph­i­cal thoughts and every­day reflec­tions. They have merged into one whole. There­fore, the ques­tion of the begin­ning or end of poet­ry, or of a poet’s work, seems rather imma­te­r­i­al here, because tem­po­ral­i­ty is in Etel Adnan not points in a straight line, but a dis­per­sion, in the same way that her spa­tial geog­ra­phy was. In a dia­logue with author Andy Fitch, dis­cussing the inef­fa­ble aspects of poet­ry and think­ing, she spoke of her con­cept of time:

“Often we feel time to be lin­ear, inex­orable, suf­fo­cat­ing. At oth­er moments we find it ocean­ic. We kind of swim in it. We expect physi­cists to come up with an expla­na­tion, but we don’t find one, and come back to our intu­itive use of the con­cept. But there are also moments when time appears to be, to say it in one way, both ver­ti­cal and hor­i­zon­tal, both ‘sin­gle-mind­ed’, monot­o­nous, inal­ter­able, and mul­ti-dimen­sion­al, infi­nite.” 

Is this poet­ry or thought or speech of reflec­tion? Etel pro­pos­es an answer: “It seems to me that we are porous mate­r­i­al: There’s a dou­ble tra­jec­to­ry of the world to us and from us to the world, because ulti­mate­ly we are part of each other.”

In these tran­si­tions and trans­la­tions between the image and the word, I often won­dered whether it is pos­si­ble to have seen a poem before you read it or to have read a paint­ing before you’ve seen it? I don’t have an answer from Etel, but I think that she revis­it­ed this idea often when dis­cussing her paint­ings of Mount Tamal­pais in Cal­i­for­nia, and it brings me back to a paint­ing of Mount San­nine in Lebanon by her part­ner Simone Fat­tal, about which I learnt from Buchakjian and Cachard (it was one cru­cial bat­tle­field in the Lebanese Civ­il War). I’ve nev­er seen this paint­ing, but a stan­za from Etel in her last book, made me feel as if I had:

We have lost the litur­gies under the wars, the bomb­ings, the fires we went through. Some of us didn’t sur­vive, and they were many. The Greeks had their exu­ber­ant gods, the sun­rise over Mount Olym­pus. The Canaan­ites had Mount San­nin. We have our own pri­vate moun­tains, but are they already too tired from wait­ing for us? I have no roads to them, no wires. In their splen­dor let them be.”

Seleu­cia Pieria (pho­to cour­tesy Arie Amaya-Akkermans).

Now I have a per­son­al rec­ol­lec­tion of see­ing a poem before read­ing it: It was an ear­ly evening in August when I first saw the red sun­sets of Anti­och, from the bay of the ancient Seleu­cia Pieria, in Saman­dağ, a few kilo­me­ters away from the tip of the Orontes Riv­er, the bor­der between Syr­ia and the south­ern­most tip of Turkey. I trav­eled there by motor­bike with Barış, con­quer­ing the steep hills and plateaus of a moun­tain range that extends all the way into Lebanon, hid­ing the shore­line from pry­ing eyes. We always spoke about these blood red sun­sets as the wine-dark sea of Homer, and imag­ined a lost Achilles trav­el­ing down south from Troy. This expe­ri­ence of sun and sea, so absolute­ly phys­i­cal, after near­ly two years of pan­dem­ic con­fine­ments, was exhil­a­rat­ing and remind­ed me of Etel’s thoughts about the sea in ‘Sea and Fog’: 

“The sea is not hav­ing night­mares about the Milky Way. Cop­pery clouds descend through a pas­sage down the coast. The hills loom in a steely blue col­or that can slay the heart by its beauty.

We’re spend­ing a life lov­ing it exclu­sive­ly because we couldn’t change the world. Blind­ed by its light, our reti­nas rest on its epi­der­mis, fol­low its rip­ples. Its assaults are mer­cu­r­ial, its nights, impen­e­tra­ble. Voic­es speak of a species which is wound­ed. Space is not some abstract notion but our own dimension.”

And then, Etel on Achilles, in the same poem:

“The sea ignores Achilles’ death and can’t be warned, as we have for­got­ten her
Alpha­bet. Space nar­rows down to a slit: radi­a­tion reach­es the brain, burns neurons.
Slid­ing into deep sleep, the brain eras­es all, can­cels itself.

In an invent­ed sum­mer, the world breaks apart. Slow­ly moun­tains appear…
Through a mul­ti­tude of traps set by divini­ties. Are these beings still among us?
Some­times they are.”

Upon return­ing to Istan­bul, my first encounter with “Sun and Sea”: It was the first poem that Etel Adnan wrote in 1949, at the age of 24, in French. Anoth­er Lebanese artist and film­mak­er, Lamia Jor­eige, had want­ed to set this poem to video in 2011, fol­low­ing the instruc­tions of Etel: The video should be shot entire­ly in Greece, and the artist needs to have read works by Niet­zsche (Etel Adnan said that read­ing the poem 60 years lat­er, it seemed to her that there was con­nec­tion between Niet­zsche and the poem in some way). Jor­eige didn’t com­plete the project, think­ing about how it would be pos­si­ble to cre­ate a tale of beau­ty and seren­i­ty while every­thing was going so bad­ly in Lebanon, Syr­ia and Palestine?

The Arab Apoc­a­lypse is avail­able from Post-Apol­lo Press.

In 2021, she revived and com­plet­ed the project upon an invi­ta­tion by Kari­na El Helou to take part in an exhi­bi­tion in Istan­bul around the top­ic of the sun, con­nect­ed to Etel’s most famous work, The Arab Apoc­a­lypse. The exhi­bi­tion includ­ed works by both Etel Adnan and Simone Fat­tal, as well as Gre­go­ry Buchakjian, among others. 

The Arab Apoc­a­lypse was writ­ten at the height of the Lebanese Civ­il War, after the siege and sub­se­quent mas­sacre in the Pales­tin­ian camp of Tel al Za’atar. Etel called it her harsh­est poem, an apoc­a­lypse of the sun, a sun that has swal­lowed Beirut:

“In the sky a soli­tary cof­fin is float­ing from one hori­zon to the other

A horse with lanterns for eyes car­ries the body in his mouth, rain­bows are perfect

A mil­i­tant sky aims its Kalach­nikov at the heart. BANG”

“Sun and Sea,” in con­trast, is noth­ing like an elegy:

“I would like to speak to you of the sea, of its patience. Of the sun entan­gled with her. To tell you of the brass deaf­ened by the waters.” 

It is a lyri­cal song, telling the sto­ry of the sun and the sea as mytho­log­i­cal crea­tures. That this poem was writ­ten so ear­ly, con­tra­dicts recep­tion of her poet­ry as either min­i­mal­ist or post­mod­ern, because here she already intro­duces many of the top­ics and styles that would char­ac­ter­ize her poet­ic sig­na­ture through the years:

“O sea, do I need to know you’re deep when your sur­face alone dismays, 
to know you paci­fied, when your lips are eter­nal machines,
to know you sacred, you woman, adul­ter­ous woman, vio­lat­ed woman…” 

Nature and the astral bod­ies are promi­nent in this poem and epony­mous video by Lamia Jor­eige, as Etel her­self reads the poem, some­times alone, some­times dou­bled up by Jor­eige, laid out against the mes­mer­iz­ing images of the shores and the islands and the rocky hills of Greece. Etel Adnan’s immense love for the sea foams up already in the first lines:

“With what clear mem­o­ry we remem­ber the sea!
The sun says: Sea is the orig­i­nal life, I am the future
Vines and the panther’s verve.
The sea is a woman on the lap of dawn.” 

In a short con­ver­sa­tion between both artists at the begin­ning of the video, Etel intro­duces her lyri­cal fix­a­tion with Greece that will reap­pear through­out her poet­ry in the form of clas­si­cal mythol­o­gy: “I have the feel­ing that Greece is a place that lib­er­ates you from your­self.” 

“Unti­tled (Mt. Tamal­pais 1)” (1995–2000), oil on can­vas, 35.5. x 45.5.cm (cour­tesy Etel Adnan/S­feir-Sem­ler Gallery, Hamburg:Beirut)

In the poem she refers to ancient deities as per­son­i­fi­ca­tions of both sun and sea, 

“She says: 
You, sun, Ra, Mar­duk, once my father now my 
lover, make me return inside your eye and your mat­ter, make 
me rise into your realm, or else go down into my depths.” 

The two myth­i­cal fig­ures, the astral body and the expanse of waters, both sources of life, are engaged here in a titanomachy: 

“You are a dwarf, says the sea, com­pared to the oth­er stars. 
Don’t lose sight of my omnipo­tence, says the sun. My kiss 
applied to your entire sur­face will be the await­ed cat­a­clysm.” 

And the most strik­ing pas­sage, at the very end: 

“I saw the sea in the cell and the cell in the mid­dle of the sea. 
I saw the sea in the sun and the sun in the mid­dle of the sea. 
I saw the sea in your eye and your eye in the mid­dle of the sea.” 

Who could pos­si­bly not get lost in love in those words?

After that jour­ney between Anti­och and the moun­tains and the sea, cul­mi­nat­ing in the blood red sun­sets of Saman­dağ, one is always left with the feel­ing that he has read Etel’s poem before, that he has always known it. And in fact, this is true for all of Etel Adnan. If you’ve seen San­nine or Tamal­pais, you’ve read all of Etel Adnan, and if you’ve read all of Etel Adnan, you’ve seen San­nine and Tamal­pais, and Beirut, and you have ascend­ed into love, or descend­ed into war, and cold death. So is it per­haps the case that the first poem of Etel Adnan was already her final poem, even when it wasn’t her last, or any­where in the middle? 

There’s a scin­til­lat­ing moment of philo­soph­i­cal matu­ri­ty in the last stan­za of the poem, that would be reflect­ed in her con­ver­sa­tions through­out the next six decades, and that explains her affin­i­ty for Nietzsche: 

“Mul­ti­ple and one, one and the oth­er apart at the same time, their image equal, one in the oth­er, yet also reduced and round­ed, now togeth­er they know through eroti­cism and through inno­cence, there is no dual­i­ty nor uni­ty, but the mul­ti­ple always one, that begins at dawn, and begins again at dusk.” 

This is already a mes­sage from beyond: No begin­nings or ends, in life or in death.

In her final book, she refers back for a last time to the gods of Greece: 

“I miss the cos­mic ener­gy of ancient Greece. They loved their gods to whom every­thing was giv­en save the supreme pow­er. Free, none of them were in the absolute sense, only Zeus was, though his arbi­trari­ness was often looked at with a crit­i­cal eye. Prometheus was chained because he rebelled, and Io was con­demned to suf­fer an oppo­site but equal­ly rad­i­cal pun­ish­ment, to turn and turn and nev­er rest. There was a raw cru­el­ty to their world, but I miss them, just the same.” 

It would be fool­ish to read this as a farewell, but rather, we should read it as a turn towards sem­piter­nal time, towards the hori­zon of infin­i­ty. She explains her love for the sea and for Niet­zsche in these terms, dur­ing her con­ver­sa­tion with Fitch: “Addic­tion to the sea, addic­tion to Niet­zsche: we come back to them for the same rea­sons, I am sure. They are infi­nite, not a nar­ra­tion to be under­stood once and for all, but a recur­ring source of amaze­ment.” So it is for us with her poetry. 

Much has been writ­ten and said about Etel Adnan since her death last week, tes­ta­ment to her stature, from her famous nov­el Sitt Marie Rose, to The Arab Apoc­a­lypse (still con­sid­ered a major suc­cess for an exper­i­men­tal work), count­less muse­um exhi­bi­tions and the most famous queer rela­tion­ship among intel­lec­tu­als in the Arab world, that of Etel Adnan with the sculp­tor, painter and philoso­pher Simone Fattal. 

Etel Adnan, Funer­al March for the First Cos­mo­naut, lep­orel­lo, 1968, Whit­ney Muse­um of Amer­i­can Art.

But there’s one lit­tle work, now on view at the very entrance to her Guggen­heim ret­ro­spec­tive, Light’s New Mea­sure, which cap­ti­vates my atten­tion because of how much it relates to her first poem, and the jour­neys through time and life that Etel Adnan always encour­aged the read­er to under­take unpro­tect­ed from our­selves and the world: This is the “Funer­al March for the First Astro­naut,” a lep­orel­lo com­plet­ed in 1968, in the form of a paint­ed poem to the Russ­ian astro­naut Gagarin. Etel Adnan was fas­ci­nat­ed by the space race, and had an idea, sim­i­lar to Han­nah Arendt’s, about our stel­lar jour­neys: Once one of us has left the plan­et, we all have left the plan­et with him.

In the 11th stan­za, she returns to the sun god Ra of her very first poem: 

“Astro­nauts are also mortal

Gagarin first man in space but also the thirteenth
the sun god Ra and mur­der­ous Isis
Eli­jah and Jesus and you
Moham­mad hov­er­ing above Jerusalem
Refus­ing to enter Par­adise but unclothed
And reduced to a heap of ashes

You prophet Eli­jah car­ried by your horses
Burn­ing close to the sun

All of your cos­mo­nauts car­ried by our dreams
Float­ing above sleep
All of you pio­neers of that space

Which lingers between atom and dream
We heard the tremen­dous minute of silence
You all stood when Gagarin came to you
The great child in the great machine.”

Will she now ascend into the sun like Eli­jah, like Sun god Ra, like Gagarin? On the day of her death, Barış wrote to me at night: “She will pass into the rivers of infin­i­ty, not to find peace, because she is already there, but to be one with her infi­nite lover. Simone is in her eter­ni­ty.” As it always hap­pens with Etel, I said to myself, it is as if he had read her entire poet­ry; the ascent of love, the infi­nite, the one, the warm con­cept of love, as for Socrates and Alcibiades: 

“There is but one sea; oceans, gulfs, bays, all of that is
One. This great reser­voir is part­ly in glac­i­ers, and part­ly in 
Clouds. The sea is a strange spir­it con­stant­ly chang­ing form;
She’s a heavy liq­uid, she’s made of fog, cloud, snowflakes.
She’s a mix of gases.”

For years, it has been said that Mount Tamal­pais in Cal­i­for­nia, a place she knew inti­mate­ly and about which she spoke often, and com­pared to the hills above Izmir, was for Etel Adnan, what Sainte-Vic­toire was for Cezanne, a site of exu­ber­ant vision, a site of rep­e­ti­tion, or rebel­lion, but also of fail­ure. It seems to me as if Etel’s work was incom­plete at the time of her death as the work of any painter (not her poet­ry, her final book was already pub­lished), and Simone tells us that Etel Adnan kept work­ing on the can­vas, on the lep­orel­los, day after day. 

Now that Etel is gone, I can only think of the words that Mau­rice Mer­leau-Pon­ty had for Cezanne: “That is why he nev­er fin­ished work­ing. We nev­er get away from our life. We nev­er see ideas or free­dom face to face.”

 


 

“Sun and Sea” by Lamia Jor­eige and Etel Adnan was on view as a part of “A Yel­low Sun, A Black Sun,” curat­ed by Kari­na El Helou, at Martch Art Project, Istan­bul, 07.09–30.10. Etel Adnan’s ret­ro­spec­tive, “Light’s New Mea­sure,” con­tin­ues at the Guggen­heim Muse­um, NY, through Jan­u­ary 10, 2022. 

Acknowl­edge­ments: Gre­go­ry Buchakjian, Joana Had­jithomas & Khalil Jor­eige, Kari­na El Helou, Lamia Jor­eige, Barış Yapar.

 

BeirutEtel Adnan 1925-2021Lebanese civil warLebanonpaintingParispoetry

Arie Amaya-Akkermans is an art critic and writer based in Istanbul, formerly Beirut and Moscow. His work is mostly concerned with the relationship between archaeology, classical antiquity and modern culture in the Eastern Mediterranean, with an emphasis on contemporary art. His byline has appeared previously on Hyperallergic, the San Francisco Arts Quarterly, Canvas, Harpers Bazaar Art Arabia, and he is a regular contributor for the popular Classics blog Sententiae Antiquae. Previously, he was a guest editor of Arte East Quarterly, a recipient of an experts fellowship from IASPIS, Stockholm, and a moderator in the talks program of Art Basel.

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