"Before This It Was Just A Wall" Exhibit in Plaza Lobby

The Annenberg School for Communication’s Program for Advanced Research in Global Communication (PARGC) presents “Before This It Was Just A Wall,” a display of graffiti from Beirut, Lebanon.
The exhibit offers snapshots of Beirut’s contemporary graffiti scene. Though the Arab uprisings spurred many of these inscriptions, other social and political causes inspired other drawings. What all the graffiti have in common is their concern with the human body. Clenched fists, open palms, and hands clasping each other adorn city walls, hatched mostly by the Syrian revolution. Stencils from an anti-rape campaign are ubiquitous. Murals depict bodies convulsed in disgust or shuddering with fear. Street art contrasts grotesque bodies of dictators with heroic bodies of revolutionaries. Many graffiti depict small human stick figures, walking, dancing, cycling, playing. Some use sexual imagery to make revolutionary statements: the famous “Blue Bra” found its way from the squares of Cairo to the streets of Beirut. Others harness schatological metaphors to enact political critique. A few use corporeal iconography to denounce enhancements —surgical or chemical—of the human experience. Several inscriptions are self-referential, spotlighting graffiti as an embodied practice. Bodies haunt city walls, aching for freedom, longing for pleasure, striving for dignity. Whimsical, grim, or heroic, they ask us to look and beg us to see.