Lucy Knight

The Dream Machine 2

A festival of audio-visual arts

Dream Machine 2

The sounds of a city are often as important as the sights and smells. Waking up in Beirut for the first time, a person might think they’ve landed in the middle of a building site. They, of course, wouldn’t be far off, but construction isn’t all they’d hear, there's also the sound of shop shutters coming up, car horns tooting, people shouting to one another, cats fighting and, by the afternoon, the odd firework, or occasional gunfire.


Similarly, when film was first brought to the masses, it wasn’t just the moving images that conveyed storylines and messages so powerfully – music accompanied the action, helping to guide the emotions of the viewers as the story progressed. 


It is from these relationships between sound, film, and experience that this year’s second edition of the Dream Machine Festival is drawing for its installations and performances. Taking its name from a device created in 1961 by the artists Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville - a stroboscopic flicker device that produces visual stimuli - the aim of the festival is to give artistic value to sound and image. 


The first festival, which took place last year, was organized entirely by experimental musician Sharif Sehnaoui and was a broad exploration of the relationship between sounds and images. This year he has combined forces with writer Hisham Awad and artist Lamia Joreige to bring together a collection of more than 15 artists for a five day festival of installations, workshops, lectures, screenings and performances, all with a particular focus on the relationship between film and music. 


Revolving around what the organizers call ‘clusters’ (of which there are two) the the first will focus on the ‘soundtrack’ - the way in which they are chosen and edited. 


voidcut is part of this first cluster: an ongoing project between Awad and writer and film curator Basia Lewandowska Cummings, it seeks to reassess the editing of films. Through this project they have created an installation: V as in Vertigo: On Disorientation in Cinema that, according to Awad, “looks at films where the horizon line is unstable.” He continues: it looks at “the way in which a film is shot in terms of its location and movement, like in outer space or at sea.” Their presentation and talk will be followed by audio essay, On Vanishing Land, by Justin Barton and Mark Fisher. The essay is a reflection of a walk Barton and Fisher took along the UK’s Suffolk coastline. 


Also as part of this first cluster there will be live performances. Video and media artist Katherine Liberovskaya will be doing a live video performance with a special guest appearance from Mazen Kerbaj on the trumpet. Thomas Ankersmit will also be performing Serge on his analogue modular synthesizer. 


“We’ve finally managed to get Phill Niblock out here,” says Sehnaoui. Niblock, a multi-media musician now in his 80s, will be performing several of his works, as well as one piece with Liberovskaya. Films to be screened include the Efi Zirou work Charisma X: Iannis Zenakis, which is a documentary looking at the work of composer and architect Zenakis. 


“The conjuring of an image through sound is the focus of the second cluster,” explains Awad. As part of this second cluster Beirut Art Center has commissioned a piece from theorist and artist Berit Schuck and radio editor and author Julia Tieke. Their project, Speaking of Beirut and the city is missing: seven soundtracks, is, like the flicker device, to be viewed with eyes closed. It looks at the concept of speaking about a place one cannot see. 


For the work Schuck and Tieke interviewed three Lebanese-born artists who are now living in Berlin: Ihab Al-Rajab, Siska, and Paola Yacoub. The artists each give their memories and experiences of particular places in Beirut. Audience members will experience these artists’ voices disembodied from their physical whole. 


“We want people to listen to the words about these places and then be able to go to them themselves,” says Schuck. “This is about the shared memories of places these people are no longer seeing.” Unlike their previous work on the streets of Alexandria, this is a site-specific project. 


Also as part of the second cluster Tarek Atoui will be hosting a workshop looking at the way in which music and its composition can be affected by the location of the instruments. Visual artist Ali Cherri will also presenting an installation and giving a talk. His commissioned piece Magnetic Liaisons takes just the soundtrack of lovers’ conversation in the film Beyrouth la rencontre – their voices play out from the tape decks free from images of the lovers who are speaking.


The works of the artists and writers taking part in this year’s festival are all a testament to the importance of sound in film. “Music is not essential to a film,” says Sehnaoui, “but our festival is putting a special focus on the value it can bring.”



The Dream Machine Festival will be running from October 25 to 30 at Beirut Art Center. For more details of the program, you can visit the BAC website here.


(Image via Facebook)

a collection of more than 15 artists for a five day festival of installations, workshops, lectures, screenings and performances, all with a particular focus on the relationship between film and music