Seven questions with... artist Rami Dalle
Photographs Jon Cardwell
Today is the last day of Beirut Design Week and so we are introducing you to one more Beirut-based artist. Rami Dalle, who often collaborates with retailers in what he calls ‘art meets the mass and the consumer’, creates symbolic collages in his workshop with the help of local makers…
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do…
I am an artist based in Beirut currently working with international and local brands on refining and defining their communication mainly through events, window displays, and exclusive branding projects where art meets retail – art meets communication and branding – art meets the mass and the consumer. I’m a self-taught maker with a strong background in graphic design and print media – and an obsessive collector. I would say I am adventurous but slightly conservative.
What do you specialise in making?
Over the past nine years, my workshop has specialized in creating installations, as displays for events, galleries, and shop fronts. Recent works include an installation commissioned by House of Today for Curio, part of Design Miami 2017. The installation, entitled Construction Deconstruction, transported pieces of Lebanon to the international stage of Design Miami in an effort to voice a statement for Lebanon today, which has been misread by the media. I specialize in materialising abstract ideas, stories, and emotions through tactile means that become more concrete, to be understood by all.
Where does your inspiration come from?
It started with my mother, and how she used her techniques in making to sew clothes for us as kids, as a necessity and not as a luxury. And then I would collect those scraps of textiles almost as sacred or precious materials. So a lot of my inspiration now revolves around women-makers who are turning their bedrooms, kitchen tables and shoe boxes into small workshops. Because through the process of that, I have learnt that this is where the most honest and intimate works come to life; within the mindset, the time, the material, and the environment in which these works are created.
You use a lot of Lebanese objects, parts of objects and symbolism in your work. Could you tell a little more about that?
The fact that I was a curious child raised in Beirut, had an impact on the way Beirut inspires me. It’s a hide-and-seek relationship, so many inspirations are concealed in Beirut and yet to be found by the seeker. Though I don’t strive to use objects that are identifiably Lebanese, the symbolism in my work is important and is derived from a storytelling aspect. Simply put, where the material symbolizes the message. Found objects have been part of some of my works. So by default, I’m driven to using objects that could be found in Lebanon, but also seek the equivalent internationally… which as a process is as interesting.
You often choose to work with local artisans to create your projects. How does that process usually work?
Not necessary to inject the sense of Lebanese local artistry in my installations, but rather to direct an environment among local makers to enhance the works’ intimacy. While they’re often not professional artisans, I purposely strive to work with makers whose characters and ways of thinking and living can add a layer to the project. Of course, most of that remains behind the scenes and is only manifested in videos and making-of’s, but it largely sets the depth and the metronome of each work.
What is your regular day like?
Some days are for discoveries, some days are for enjoying my routines, and others are for adhering to my schedules. I start the day by setting the structure, through a hot sip of coffee, tidying my room or listening to the radio and then letting the rest of the day to flow as it wishes. I try to keep myself porous, because simple happenings during the day, like listening to a song while driving to the workshop, a conversation I overheard or watching regular people catching up on their daily lives, can affect my regular day.
There are many crafts that are disappearing as traditional techniques are often only passed on through oral knowledge. How important would you say preserving these skills?
Surely some crafts and ways of making are disappearing as many traditions, norms, and believes are also naturally disappearing. So preserving the crafts comes with preserving these traditions. Definitely to keep an eye on certain kinds of habits that are on the verge of distinction through arranging workshops, organizing carnivals, and tailoring databases and online forums for such specific crafts.