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Experimental Communication

Louise Gholam

WHO AM I? 

It seems like my generation has entered a process of ‘awakening’ in terms of the politics of identity.

In the midst of a global pandemic, we find ourselves ‘finally’ having time to reflect on where we come from. Being a second generation Middle-Eastern immigrant, I feel part of a ‘neo-diaspora’. Sent on what appears like a reverse-crusade to restate how ‘our’ stories are told and regroup around common inquiries.

Being of mixed heritage (raised between French-countryside-quietude and the always-boisterous Beirut) and a globe-trotter BC (Before Covid), has allowed me to train a ‘fugitive’ identity, navigating intricate cultural landscapes and politics. 

After a baccalaureate in Applied Arts at the École Boulle (Paris), I graduated from a BA at the Design Academy of Eindhoven (NL) in Political and Social Design.


COLLABORATIONS 

In recent years I have collaborated with art galleries and museums (Onomatopée (NL) / MUDAC (Lausanne)), magazines & studios (ISHKAR (London) / Studio Safar (Beirut)) and pop-up exhibitions (Dutch Design Week).

I am currently the co-founder and creative director at Export Radio (RCA’s radio station), design editor for The Pluralist (RCA’s independent newspaper) and contributor for Content-Free.net (RCA VisCom’s living archive).

I recently joined curator and writer Roisin Tapponi alongside 5 other women; Nour Helou, Reman Sadani, Bella Barkett, Isra Al Kassi, Shahnaz Dulaimy, to be part of Habibi Collective as art director and developer of archival workshops/talks series for the platform. Founded in 2018, Habibi Collective is an open-access resource, digital archive and curatorial platform for women’s filmmaking from South-West Asia and North Africa.


SCREENINGS

2019

Middle East Now Festival , Florence, IT.

2020

Reykjavik International Film Festival (RIFF), Reykjavik, IS.

Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam, NL.

Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, Oberhausen, GR.

An Evening for Beirut , London, UK.

CREATIVE METHODOLOGY 

My approach to Visual Communication is intuitive and nourished by ‘on-the-field’ media archeology, bring forward relevant story-telling. My research focuses on developing conversational works, using collaborative methodologies drawing on ideas of collective memory, ’filmic politics’ and cooperative broadcasting.


FASCINATIONS

My relationship with journalism is deeply torn. I picture it as dualistic, both purposeful and corrupted. Information about one of my homelands, Lebanon, is often depicted incorrectly. For a long time, I would rather have disregarded this part of my identity than hear people sharing fantasised visions recounted by the media. 

I feel the urge to participate in the expansion of voices heard in this field, acknowledging perspectives that challenge Western logic, exploring alternative ways to ‘inform’ the public and lowering the threshold to journalistic jargon. 

Being part of video production/direction teams (and a ‘cinéphile’) has allowed me to expand my knowledge of moving-image as a preferred medium.

MINI STUDIO, experimental documentary - poster
MINI STUDIO - trailer — duration: 2'37''
MINI STUDIO - found footage stills
MINI STUDIO - research clip

Director’s statement [extract]


Synopsis: 

March 2020, the Great Lockdown. Louise, French-Lebanese expatriate in London rejoins her family home in France. One afternoon, she plunges herself in a nostalgic frenzy, watching home videos with her parents.

One of them catches her attention. Murr TV Studios in Naccache, Beirut, September 4th 2002. A 6 minutes recording of her 5-year-old-self participating in 90’s MENA’s leading kids show; Mini Studio. Filmed sneakily backstage, this short life extract triggers an observation by her parents. “You know this episode never made it on TV, right?” 

A minute comment that will settle Louise on a quest to find out about what happened to this episode’s tape and why it never got broadcasted. 


STARTING POINT

My starting point ‘came to me’ as an epiphany of awakening. Striking me like thunder, I couldn’t get past it. The image is this: a TV broadcasting set, filled with Lebanese kids aged 5-12, in MTV Lebanon (Murr Television, not to be confused with MTV us/uk) studios in Beirut’s outskirts. 

The red hue of Mini Studio’s logo fills in the room. The backdrops, the shirts all the kids are wearing. The exact instant a kid is pointed at intensely by a cameraman. The lens almost touches his face as the technician gets an extreme close up of the kid smiling and singing. Next to him, there’s me, aged 5, visibly confused and fascinated by the situation. 

This is this exact instant, this flash of event, that I saw as I was waking up. 

This ‘archive’ footage I’m describing here sits between the public and private sphere. My familial context and the more global societal, historical context in Lebanon. 

“How?”, you may ask. 

The following day at 5pm, MTV studios was raided by the Syrian army and Lebanese police. All journalists and staff got kicked out, live on television. Accused of “illicit propaganda” and “disturbing the relations of Lebanon with a brother country (Syria)”, this independent channel was “closed permanently” until 2009. These accusations were the result of MTV’s documentation and broadcast of protests against the Syrian regime earlier in 2001/2002.


WHO AND WHY? 

As a kid (in the early 2000s), I participated in the Lebanese kids show Mini Studio, broadcast from Murr TV (MTV) Studios in Beirut. Thinking back about this show, I became interested in its particular identity: a 30 year-old programme from Beirut, accessible to children in all the MENA area and around the world thanks to satellite television, along with the use of 3 interlaced languages (French, Arabic and English) in broadcasts. 

MiniStudio is also 22 musicals, 300 characters, 220 songs, summer camps, shopping mall activations, parties… It was a ‘first' in the Middle-East, a cultural anchor for kids in the region, including the kids who were part of its diaspora. Appearing just after the war ended in 1990, the shows birth was more than unlikely. How do you address an audience of children who are potentially traumatised and/or growing up in conflicting geopolitical situations?

The ‘subject’, Mini Studio, is part of a collective memory. It does not belong to me. It doesn’t even belong to its ‘creator’, who, over time, has lost all copyright. It became part of a shared experience. Legitimatised by the fact that this was a kids show, a public service broadcast for the masses.

Starting from this archive, the idea for this short experimental documentary was then born from a personal and professional inquiry triggered in my practice: “Where do I belong?” 


WHAT AND HOW?

I have put together an archive around Mini Studio’s story, focusing my research between 1992 and 2002. Many of the recordings from that period were lost, erased or destroyed with MTV’s forced shutdown in 2002*. The archival material is sparse and full of gaps. I nourished it with testimonials from people who were creators and/or viewers of the program, documentations of the geopolitical context surrounding it, along with exchanges around Arab Futurism (imagining speculative narratives for a generation seeking out a “better life”). Through this investigation, I attempt to tackle the subjects of diasporic identity construction and censorship/tensions in children’s TV. 

After amassing this data, I decided to work on a short experimental documentary to transpose this research. By using nostalgia as a universal thread for sharing this story and Mini Studio as a case study to catalyse my inquiries, I attempt to instigate a conversation rather than putting a specific show ‘on trial’.


*(until its reopening, only 7 years later in March 2009, after complicated political discussions and parliament votes).

https://tel.archives-ouvertes.fr/tel-00824231/document


Medium:

Moving Image, Interview, Media Archeology
MINI STUDIO, archival locals — Beirut, May 2021
MTV (Murr TV), archive rooms — Naqqach, May 2021
MINI STUDIO, archival locals — Beirut, May 2021
MTV (Murr TV), archive rooms — Naqqach, May 2021

A photo-series documenting the documentary making process of MINI STUDIO: The story of the lost VHS and the vulnerable archivist, in Lebanon.



Medium:

Photography, On-the-field documentary research
TEMP TCR Visual Identity
TEMP TCR#1 Open Edit — TEMP TCR #1 is one of the three formats, a live improvised A/V experiment. Participants bring with them RAW sound and image files, extrapolated out from their more resolved projects. The group un-packs, samples and re-sequences these files in an improvised and transparent editing process. TEMP TCR #1: 26th June 7:30PM at Ugly Duck London featuring Mark Prendergast, Henry Bradley and More TBC
TEMP TCR Formats
'Open Edit' A/V Rig Diagram

TEMP TCR is temporary television studio set up and co-hosted by Felix Bayley-Higgins and Louise Gholam. Both are looking into the visual languages, history and culture surrounding video broadcasting in their respective personal practices. TEMP TCR is the first outing of a platform they’re currently developing to build a community of people working with experimental video, sound and research methodologies in unique ways. The platform functions by inviting individuals to engage with a set of different formats. Placing a focus on intuitive making these formats are specifically designed to showcase people’s underlying interests, methodologies and sensibility.

— Invitation to TERMINAL — Visual Communication Satellite Show happening on 27-30 June at the Ugly Duck, 49 Tanner St., London, SE1 3PL Visuals by William Jacobson Visuals by William Jacobso
Curatorial brochure, SIDE A. — Fold-out leaflet brochure for TERMINAL. Curatorial Essay by Maya Gulieva & Louise Gholam. Layout and visuals by Louise Gholam, Camille Le Flem and Rocco Punghellini.
Curatorial brochure, SIDE B. — Fold-out leaflet brochure for TERMINAL. Curatorial Essay by Maya Gulieva & Louise Gholam. Layout and visuals by Louise Gholam, Camille Le Flem and Rocco Punghellini.
Curatorial process, April-June 2021. — Working on floor plans and drafting the curatorial essay with Maya.
Curatorial Essay — by Maya Gulieva & Louise Gholam

Terminal is not where; it’s when. It unpacks the broader questions when brought on. When everything is unmoving, uncertain and unprecedented, how do we change, create, grow? When in isolation energy is a limited resource, what can we afford to create? When art is deemed non-essential, how can sacrifices and compromises inform new values in the work we take into the post-Covid world — what is essential?

TERMINAL brings together the work of over 50 students produced during (and in response to) isolation. Based around "survival essentials", our curatorial concept set out to unpack the students’ experience of spending 18 months in a terminal-like space, and seeing it as a prolific period in critical thinking and making. Visitors are invited to join this speculative space spread across nine exhibition Zones: Arrivals, Customs, Vestibule, Bus Stop, Declarations (Preview only), Waiting Room (Library), Round Table, Control Room and Duty-Free

TERMINAL features a programme of live performances, installations, moving image, sonic-work and expanded publishing, whilst also dialogic events such as workshops, experimental seminars and poetry sessions. In addition, Visual Communication’s experimental Export Radio station will be transmitting soundbites from the event online.

The Satellite Event will be happening at the Ugly Duck, 49 Tanner st, London Sun 27 - Wed 30 June. Everyone welcome, please book a slot via Eventbrite link below

Role: Co-curator and Coordinator

Medium:

Curation, Exhibition (Visual Communications Satellite Event)

Size:

55 artists, Ugly Duck, 49 Tanner st, London, Sun 27-Wed 30 June
— Written by Louise Gholam and Maya Gulieva

Fugitive Voices is a series of conversations dedicated to studying alternative types of knowledge and communication that go beyond a culture founded in the European cogito. Read more

Visiting lecturers (Abbas Zahedi, Elizabeth Price, Ifeanyi Awachie, Hamja Ahsan, Sung Tieu, Sophie Lewis, Banu Cenetoglu and more) unpacked the notion of "fugitivity" — a concept that signals a divergence, a wandering, 'waywardness' from a specific social trajectory — and how it is embodied through a multitude of experimental practices.

In collaboration with RCA tutors (Eleni Ikoniadou and Joseph Pochodzaj) and VisCom fellow students from the first and the second MA year(Myrna Marianovits, Maya Gulieva, Konstantina Benaki Chatzipasou, Ruozhu Li, Can Yang, Andrea Siso, Vicky Evans, Phoebe Hayes).

Read the full article here.


Medium:

Arts review, writing, conversation.

Varley Memorial Award

Award winner 2020 for the Export Radio project.