Samos YoungArtists Festival

Ninar Esber

*1971, Lebanon

Ninar Esber primarily uses her body as a material in a practice organised essentially around performance, installation and video, playing on the notions of slowness, immobility and resistance. Her work also pays particular attention to the status and role given to women in the Middle East, in Europe or elsewhere. She uses her own body to highlight the absurdity, hypocrisy, violence and injustice that women and minorities are subjected to. For the exhibition A World Not Ours, Esber has developed a new performance piece. A blind lighthouse stands facing the sea. It is lit but it’s light is powerless. Atop the tall structure is poised a female creature; she beckons but as soon as one approaches her she turns. The lighthouse and its sentry beckon but at the same time are unable to protect those who run towards them. A deadly game of seduction is played between a tempting but precarious presence and the stunned voyagers who run to their doom. As with most of her performative pieces, here too, Esber manipulates the seductive effects of her chosen medium, stirs our curiosity, and encourages us to reflect upon our relations with those on the ‘other’ side.

Torso (II), on the other hand, is a text-based work featuring the names of a selection of military operations conducted by the US, Israeli, British and French militaries in the Middle East between 1948 and now. As a sinister ‘trophy’ the attractive appearance of this outsized shiny necklace, and the often exotic Hollywood-sounding names are at odds with the violence and death engendered by these campaigns. Finally, Esber has also designed a stage for the performative and discursive events that will take place inside the exhibition space.

Trained at the Ecole Nationale Superieure d’Arts de Paris-Cergy, the works Esber has been making since 2000 are often based on personal experience and are driven by performance. They are sometimes spectacular but more often inscribed in the routines of daily life: sitting, standing, reading, sleeping, filming, sorting, counting and so on. Although these simple acts hover between the theatrical and the quotidian gesture, they suspend space and time and encourage decelerated perception.

Recent exhibitions include: Choices Paris, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2016); the 5th Thessaloniki Biennial: Between the Pessimism of the Intellect and the Optimism of the Will, Thessaloniki (2015); Before our eyes, Other Cartographies of the Rif, MACBA, Barcelona and Music Palace, Villa Empain, Boghossian Foundation, Brussels (2014); Experienz # 2 - Materializing the Social, WIELS, Brussels (2013); Newtopia: the State of Human Rights, Mechelen (2012); La Bonne Graine, 
 Galerie Imane Fares, Paris, (2012) LʼArlésienne, French cultural centre, Fes, (2012); Working for Change, Moroccan Pavilion, 54th Venice Biennale (2011); and Sentences on the banks and other activities, Darat Al Funun, Jordan (2010).

Ninar Esber was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1971. She lives and works between Paris and Beirut. Esber is represented by Galerie Imane Farès, Paris.


Ninar Esber
Torso, 2012
Brass polished mirror
300 x 150 cm
Courtesy the Nadour Collection


Ninar Esber
New York Vertigo, 2006
Performance, New York
Courtesy the artist


Ninar Esber
The Two Ladders, 2009 (Fes, Morocco)
Iron, light bulbs and car batteries (24 meters each)
Courtesy the artist and L'Appartement 22, Rabat


Ninar Esber
La Bonne Graine, 2012
Performance at WIELS, Brussels
Courtesy the artist and Galerie Imane Farès, Paris
Photos Cici Olsson