Lebanese-American artist, Annabel Daou talks current events and DECLARATION sound installation with current exhibition


Devon Sipes/ The Sunflower

Artist Annabel Daou speaks at the Ulrich Museum of Art, Apr. 5th 2022. Daou is known for her use of language, poetry, and history to create messages people can learn from in everyday life.

On April 5, Lebanese-American artist Annabel Daou was the spotlight for this month’s Artist Talk.

Known for her poetic conceptual pieces, Daou combines history and language with multimedia to empower viewers to look at the present. 

Many of her pieces have come from a time of war, including the 2003 war between the US and Iraq.

“I had a feeling there was no place for art,” Daou said. “For me at that point in my life, I felt that I should stop painting and do something else. Something that could take me out of the private space of my studio.” 

During this time, she decided to pick up a pencil and paper to write instead of paint. 

“For the next several years, I began making work that consisted of language,” Daou said. “Transcribed documents, transliterated documents as well…I wrote the US Constitution, for example, phonetically in Arabic.”

Daou’s purpose for transcribing the document in Arabic is because she wants people to see the Arabic language.

“I wasn’t using language as concrete poetry,” she said. “I was speaking in the voices that make up the landscape of a country.” 

Times of war wasn’t the only thing that inspired Daou, some of her other works were inspired by the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 and fortune-tellers. 

The 2011 Egyptian Revolution inspired her multimedia piece “Which side are you on?” where she asked random people in New York, without any context or preparation, which side they were on. 

“During this period I began to think about the accumulation of voices,” she said. “Of language, to mark the sense of being in the same place as others.” 

Her piece, “Fortune” was inspired by fortune-tellers.

“I was thinking about the fortune-tellers as a stand-in for the artists,” she said. “Someone who looks towards the present to see the past.” 

For this particular piece, she had an ad placed in the Daily Star newspaper, and locals could send in pictures of their palms and had their fortunes transcribed onto paper for $10. 

“The reading and writing is entirely silent,” she said “It’s structured around two questions, “where are you coming from?” and “where are you going to?”

Her most recent work, “DECLARATION,” which is currently on display on campus in the Grace Memorial Chapel, combines her voice along with others in response to protests around the world. 

“It takes its opening line from the Declaration of Independence of 1776,” she said “It articulates one’s pivotal moment to act.” 

The event that inspired the sound installation piece was the protests in Hong Kong that took place from 2019 to 2020. 

She will be performing in front of the Grace Memorial Chapel on April 6th at 12:30 p.m. During this performance, she will invite the public to participate in a collaborative project that will have the audience reflect on political, personal and social themes with no topic restriction. 

Daou leaves a powerful piece of advice for those going into the arts industry. 

“It’s important to build a community,” she said, “I think it’s important to build a community based on mutual understanding or learning from each other.”