Beirut’s Hauntology: Asphyxia

by Ziad Suidan 

As seen from a satellite or spy camera, Beirut is being overcome by concrete dreams. In Tom Young’s latest series, “Beirut’s Hauntology: Asphysxia,” spaces of preservation have gone by way of an overlapping, contradictory and proliferating set of architectural sketches. The transience of Tom Young’s thin washes give way to the byproduct of global modernity, the climate crisis that sits atop of Beirut’s sky.

Beiruti few remaining green spaces and coastal environments are being ploughed and excavated. Still, they do not give way to zones of fixity as can be found on a google map. Tom Young’s new paintings may be heralding a secular apocalypse. In one sense, the overlapping memory scapes have for a moment been overcome. In another sense, these paintings call forth a “revealing” sense of catastrophe.

Beirut is a city still in process, still trying to make its way into the modern age, engulfed in hazed projections of climate crisis. In these paintings awash with outlines that have yet to move their way into solid form, they capture Beirut's undecidability. At once, these paintings are projections of an all too familiar global vision; still, they put forth a startling new opening for Tom Young’s work—from impasto memory scape to an ephemeral wash. And yet, these delicately painted veils leave a trace, one that refuses to settle into utter oblivion. Landscapes wrangle with architecture, which still, at times, wrangle with bled-through-dreamscapes. Beirut has become a ghostly presence, neither present nor alive, neither alive nor dead. Beirut is just beyond the haze of its climate crisis.

“Just beyond” is a seduction but not to a paradise except for builders and contractors who seek to develop this city in the name of another totally unfamiliar with Beirut’s cultural heritage. This seduction is one that almost allows horizon and sky to touch, almost as if one might kiss the other. Still a climate crisis nearly blots out the city, leaving it in a faded past or a future yet to come. Beirut has become liminality, not of epic in medias res, struggling to reach the impossibility of home, but to its modern apotheosis. In fact, some might look at the bulldozers, cranes and cloud cover and wonder: what relation have the pulling down, putting up, and plumes of pollution have to do with each other? Is the speed of life that hangs over these barely visible cityscapes the price a city is paying for concrete’s environmental ravages?