The Khan in Brussels is the second iteration of The Khan spaces was set up in the context of Moussem Cities: Beirut, a festival in Brussels shedding light on the Lebanese capital. This room functioned as a durational performance of luxurious intrusion, floating between the playful, serious and offensive tonalities of being present in the world today as an observer of lucid death, migration, xenophobic legislation, the crumbling of unions and disillusionment with present fictions.
The starting point thinking about this pavilion was that I, an Arab man of Muslim heritage, am invited to be in the capital of the European Union, to say whatever I have to say, represent, express, and generalize, within the safety of cultural infrastructure and artistic patronage, when Arab men (and women) like me are denied access to basic needs as they flee wars—not only that, but they spark operations like the EU’s “Mare Nostrum”, that even in its attempt to monitor and organize the flow of refugees into Europe through the Mediterranean, appropriates the sea as “Our Sea” and chooses “tackle” as the most adequate verb to describe its relationship to these people/us.
A room without a roof, this intervention was an invitation for complete transparency—voyeurism. Performing Hekmat, I lived in this room for two weeks and made it available on Airbnb. As people gazed onto the Arab concierge from above, Hekmat gazed back and broke the surveillance dynamic.
In the meantime, Hekmat had more power than the supposed owners of the city, its users, the residents of Brussels. By intentionally designing a room that lacks infrastructure, this “hotel room” relied on surrogate institutes for basic daily routines. Hekmat made coffee in Moussem’s office, went to the toilet at Galerie Ravenstein’s shared bathroom, and showered in the backstage of Palais des Beaux-Arts across the street, and so did the room’s guests.
Title ········· The Khan of Brussels
Medium ········· Public Pavillion, Performance
Context ······ Moussem Cities: Beirut
Year ······· 2017