I have always been fascinated by Dante’s Divine comedy. Revisiting it recently was a totally immersive experience, and I was struck by its relevance to the time and place in which we find ourselves, seven centuries after it was written.
Lebanon is in a state of unprecedented economic and social collapse, due to decades of corruption, negligence and treachery, coupled with impunity. For Dante, unrepentant sinners of such wrongdoings are in the lowest circles of “Hell”; they suffer eternal punishments not only for their actions, but for their serious disruption of society.
Translating Dante’s vision into public art was emotional and overwhelming. While expressing my response to the here and now, I wanted, above all, the work to be inclusive, engaging, and to instill the belief that, there exists, still, a ray of hope.”
“On the Other Side of Time” draws its inspiration from Dante Alighieri’s famous Divine Comedy, a timeless epic that narrates the poet’s travels through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. It is an allegory of man’s journey through life towards salvation, celebrating universalism and goodness as ideals, while emphasizing the consequences of sin and the glories of Heaven.
The site-specific installation, occupying the square, echoes both the poem’s theme and structure through a multilayered symbolic composition.
Hell, according to Dante, is a funnel-shaped abyss containing nine concentric circles. Its representation is a Corten cylinder with a glass top, centrally positioned in the square, and bearing the ominous inscription that greeted unrepentant sinners entering the gate of Hell: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter”. The damned souls endure eternal punishments, which worsen as they move deeper into the circles towards the center of the earth, where Satan is frozen for eternity.
Purgatory is the inverted image of “Hell”, taking the form of a ridged mountain. Striving to reach the summit towards the Garden of Eden, repentant souls atone for their sins by contemplating examples of the virtues contrasting with their vices. In the installation, concrete cylinders proportionate to the negative spaces inside the Corten structure are positioned around it, inviting people to sit and interact with the work.
Paradise, the final part of Dante’s journey, is a collection of nine celestial spheres that surround the Earth, where the blessed souls reside. Their happiness and virtuousness grow as they ascend from sphere to sphere in their journey towards the Empyrean – abode of God and tenth heaven – immobile and intangible. In the square, a dynamic composition of nine brushed stainless-steel rings rises from the ground, culminating in a big mirrored steel circle, that blends with its surroundings, curling up towards the sky.