Despite our advanced forebrains, we remain ignorant at a macro scale. We are, like ants, only conscious of our micro decisions - to build this or that, to move here or there and their very immediate effects on our lives. Yet those same conscious decisions contribute to a longer term global behavior like that of an ant colony, an ‘emergent’ intelligence, that we have no way of immediately perceiving.

Our reality at any point resides in our cultural artifacts and in the debris of history, the products of a complex macro course; but we can only experience reality and interact with it at a local, micro level. That is why, when we observe more closely life at home and on the street, we feel a sense of alienation - because of that mismatch in scale between what we encounter and how we interact with it. We also feel alienated because there is no clear correspondence between what we know and what we perceive. Our reality is a product of more than the known history, so our knowledge always falls short. To define an object, a person, or a system by its history would only limit it. We might need to trust our immediate experience of it, our very gnawing sense of alienation, to attempt a more complete understanding.



Christine Kettaneh, Smell me, Touch me, Kiss me, rotating sugar ball, artist book silkscreen printed on baking wax paper, box of sugar letters, table with hidden rotating mechanism, 2017, Galerie Janine Rubeiz, Beirut.




In my work, there is always an intrigue in the everyday matter. In the next two projects, I explore the bar of soap on my wash basin, the ants in my garden, the sugar on my kitchen table, and the language in my mouth. My search, as always, involves an enquiry into language. There is a temporary forgetting of meaning as I feed the alphabet to the ants and as I suspend my search for the origin of Hayat, the soap. Only to pick up the words again and use them as triggers for rituals in the hopes of smelling, touching and kissing matter’s more metaphorical possibilities.



Christine Kettaneh, Sugar Garden, laser-engraving on preserved avocado leaves, 2017, ed.1/4.

Dear Dad,
You had grown a beautiful garden but left just before the trees bore their first fruit. With our bitter hearts and salty tears, we welcomed the remarkable sweetness of that first harvest. After your 10th memorial I went into the garden in search of you. Over two months I prepared and served sugar letters to the garden. The ants responded.

When an ant stumbled across a letter it marked a scented trail on the way back to the nest so that more ants might follow. When an ant encountered another ant, it felt the other ant with its antennae; they then kissed as they recited scented liquid letters to each other. After that long sweet affair with the ants, the underground became a mine of smells, touches and kisses.