• Cracks in the Edifice: Niemeyer’s futuristic fairground in Tripoli
    Suzy Halajian & Noah Simblist

Anthony Saroufim, "untitled," (Rashid Karami International Fairground, designed by Oscar Niemeyer, Tripoli, Lebanon, built 1962), 2006. Digital photograph. Courtesy the artist

The research investigates the unfinished site of the Rashid Karami International Fairground, designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in Tripoli, Lebanon in 1962, and conceived with utopian promise. The project focuses on the exchanges of communities in Latin America and the Middle East, while addressing failed modernist projects—exemplified by this site as an intersection of architecture and the postcolonial nation state. Neimeyer’s fairground is a symbol for a set of failures: a teetering Lebanese state, in relation to the promise of Lebanon as a progressive beacon in the region. Similarly, Brazil’s national identity is defined by a hopeful futurism, despite its cycles of authoritarianism. Conceived during a period of internationalism and solidarity between members of the global south, Neimeyer’s project proposed that modernist form offers a universal language. But how have the changes in the sociopolitical contexts of Brazil and Lebanon since the 1960s impacted the site's reading?

Suzy Halajian is a curator and writer based in Los Angeles. Since June 2022, she is executive director and chief curator at JOAN. Her work begins at the intersection of art and politics, treating image making as steeped in colonial pasts and modern surveillance states. She has curated projects at spaces including LACE, ONE Archives at the USC Libraries, Hammer Museum, Human Resources (all Los Angeles); Oregon Contemporary, Portland; Kunstverein, Amsterdam; Sursock Museum, Beirut; and UKS, Oslo. Halajian serves on the programming committee of Human Resources Los Angeles. She was granted the Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers grant for the collaborative journal Georgia, and a curatorial research fellowship from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Her writing has been published by ArtEast, BOMB, X-TRA, Ibraaz, among others. Halajian is a PhD candidate in the Film and Digital Media program at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

As a curator, writer and artist, Noah Simblist works on the ways in which contemporary artists address history, sovereignty, and the tensions between political forces and self-determination. He edited the new book Tania Bruguera: The Francis Effect (Deep Vellum, 2022) as well as Commonwealth (Publication Studio, 2022), and Artist in Residence (Publication Studio, 2021). Simblist has contributed to Art in America, Art Agenda, Art Journal, Terremoto, and other publications. His curatorial projects include Commonwealth at the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University (2020), Conjunctions and Disjunctions at Black Ground in Cali, Colombia (2022), Summer Sessions: Commonwealth at the ICA at VCU (2019), Aissa Deebi: Exile is Hard Work at Birzeit University Museum in Palestine (2017), False Flags at Pelican Bomb in New Orleans (2016), and Emergency Measures at the Power Station, Dallas (2015). He is associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.