In the relatively calm neighborhood of Gemmayze, ample sounds take many forms. From the revving motors of cars stuck in traffic to conversations over coffee at sunset, to the residual song and chatter of a once-booming nightlife, it is a place that never sleeps. For an area that is greener than most, however, the soft twitter of songbirds on early mornings is missing.

With this trend in mind, artist Ziad Antar, in collaboration with Beirut Art Residency, developed Safe Sounds II, an interactive image and sound installation in which participants will domesticate local white-spectacled bulbuls, following a widespread tradition across regions in Lebanon.

Antar, whose works have been acquired by the likes of Centre George Pompidou in France and the British Museum in the United Kingdom, further explores his interest in synchronized audiovisual experiences in Safe Sounds II. To blend the visual with the auditory, he joined forces with AUB lecturer and color-specialist Dr. Yasmina Jreissati. The resulting structure now stands tall at the Beirut Art Residency, and is made of wooden birdcages whose bars Antar painted in black, white, and dark hues, in accordance with the three pitches of the bulbul’s distinctive sound.

However, the video artist’s ambitions for the project do not stop at its audiovisual seam. Its communal aspect, an added layer of his distinctive flair for experimental outcomes, plays on bulbuls’ characteristic loyalty: the birds normally keep to the places they are bred. So on his project’s opening night, attendees will take home a bulbul, raise it for three months, and then set it free in Gemmayze, where Antar hopes it will stay with its companions. Ultimately, the aim of Safe Sounds II is to alter the neighborhood’s soundscape, perhaps even permanently so. Knowing the bulbuls’ devotion to their surroundings, we may soon discern little serenades on the streets of Gemmayze.

Beirut Art Residency is hosting the opening reception on Monday, June 20 from 6-9 PM.

You can also connect with BeirutArtResidency on Twitter, Facbook, and Instagram using the hashtags: #ZiadAntar, #bulbulbeirut, and #BeirutArtResidency

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