Picture this: two massive blank canvases, two artists, buckets of black paint, a clock set to 90 minutes, and a soundtrack set to some awesome old school hip hop. Fast forward an hour and a half, and you’re left standing in awe of the final product; the spontaneous musings of artists come to life on canvas. This is Secret Walls X Beirut, a "Fight Club" for the art world.

Originating in a small pub in England, Secret Walls has become a massive enterprise that now happens in locations around the world, from New York and Tokyo, to Athens and Berlin. Chady Abousleiman, also known as Chad the Mad, is the guy who brought the project to Beirut. “People tend to drop a passion like a bad habit, hopefully we motivate them to do just the opposite,” he says of the inspiration behind bringing Secret Walls to Lebanon's capital.



Lebanese culture has witnessed an upsurge in live performance art over the last year. There was the Waiting for the Train exhibit which took place at Mar Mikhael's train station in October, featuring the live work of 18 different artists, designers and illustrators on a 150 meter wall. Just this past weekend, Abousleimans’ side project, Visual Ecstasy was part of the Converse-sponsored #ClashWallBeirut project at AUB Outdoors. And of course, there's Secret Walls X Beirut.

Abousleiman says the alternative art being produced by Lebanese graffiti artists often speaks to the cultural climate in which it is created. “Graffiti artists tend to leave an impression of rebelliousness. Many of the pieces on the streets are an act-out against demolition and privatization of public space, against the unjust rule of government. It’s a reaction to what is going on around us… an escape and breakout from the norms of society,” he says. At the peak of the Jackie Chamoun controversy, one artist, Sugar Wheel, created an “I Am Not Naked, I Am A Terrorist" graffiti design.

“There is an urge to unite the artists and spectators. The goal "is to rebuild an enthusiastic art society which was once prominent in Lebanese culture,” says Abousleiman. Building this art-based community relies on imagination and experience, he adds. It hasn't yet been a year, and the awards are already stacking up, the most prominent of which is the recent recognition from The European Union National Institute of Culture, which awarded Secret Walls for being one of the leading cultural events in Lebanon, and offering financial support to sustain and grow the project.

“Art is more of a technique to zone out of reality into a bit of madness, whereas street art is zoning into reality with a bit of madness,” says Abousleiman. Even though you might not be the most artistically gifted person, you can come and live vicariously through these artists as you watch their minds unfold onto canvas.

To find out about the next Secret Walls X Beirut, head to Facebook.

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