DJANNAT AL ARD – paradise on earth

DJANNAT AL ARD - paradise on earth by barbara caveng | Damascus | 2011


was realised in April and May, 2011 in Damascus. It was originally planed to collaborate with a group of Syrian artists associated to the AllArtNow institute, an initiative that supports contemporary arts. Since tensions in the country increased daily, while calls for change were accompanied by increasing violence as a reaction, it became evident that the project as planned would be pointless in the present situation on site. The ‘Djannat al Ard – dust of thev city’ project was developed in direct reaction to what happened. During long walks through the city, I swept dust from the streets and the courtyards of living houses, I swept it out of the cracks, removing the dust from the walls of mud.

I walked approximately 20 kilometres a day all the while gathering what remained of the lives that had been lived there, traces of everyday lives. In general people in Damascus reacted with curious kindness to me: some went a long for a while, others invited me to join them for a cup of coffee. Some were afraid from my unusual appearance, and a few called the police or the secret services to report my curious behaviour. After three weeks of gathering, I had about 250 kg of dust collected and stored in my studio. At the same time, foreigners were being told to leave the Syria for their personal safety. Over the course of two weeks, I sifted all the material. I covered the floor of my 20sq. meter studio space with a layer of around 1cm of dust. Using glass splitters, bits of plastic, what was left of tiles, bread and other found materials from the street I formed the writing ‘DJANNAT AL ARD – paradise on earth’ across the surface of the floor.
‘Paradise on Earth’ is one of the city of Damascus’ sobriquets. It seemed to me that the beauty of this paradise was covered by dust, under the burden of the past and the deterioration of the present.

The documentation of the project and excerpts from my diary during this journey to the unknown can be downloaded here as PDF file in German version.

AISH [Arabic: Bread | Life] 2012

The AISH project consists of a collection of around 100 thoughts and verbal statements about the situation in Syria as well as the lives of the citizens, both at home and abroad. These came together over the course of nearly two months, from September – November 2012, from Syrians who either met me and told me what they thought, or contacted me by E-mail, blog or Facebook. The verbal contributions were used to realise an installation at Forum Schlosspark in Aarau. The words were written on Syrian flat bread which was then installed so that it floated in the space.