Born in Beirut in 1983, Caline Aoun is part of a generation of young Lebanese artists who are shaping the scene in the Middle East today. In 2018, she was named Deutsche Bank's "Artist of the Year".
Today, we take it for granted that we use Google Maps, visit dating sites, or store our pictures in the cloud: the global flow of data shapes not only our everyday lives and relationships, but entire social systems. Yet the digital transfer of data is barely tangible to us; an abstract, "invisible" process.
In her work, Aoun explores the connections between digital data streams and the material world, which we are increasingly aware of today in the form of collapsing supply chains or breakdowns in local transportation.
Aoun translates phenomena such as excessive abundance, scarcity, circulation, and accumulation into abstract, minimalist art. She works with ordinary inkjet printers that she manipulates, overloading them with data or paper until the system collapses and "involuntarily" produces abstract images. This is the case in her work "Cyan, 4 Hours 10 Minutes and 9 Seconds" (2021). As the title suggests, the image is created by constantly overprinting the monochrome colour cyan over the course of four hours. The paper is covered with traces of the printing process, folds and streaks, painterly mechanical gestures that make the physical process of data transfer sensual and visible.
Aoun also assembles huge, colourful, luminous wall works from sheets of A3 paper produced by manipulated printers, reminiscent of church windows. She creates fountains, connected by a system of tubes, from which colourful printer ink initially gushes, but over time increasingly mixes and dries into a black broth. She collects data from the harbour in her hometown of Beirut and uses it to create diagrams that look like abstract mountain landscapes. The parallels with the global economy, with ideological, political and economic conflicts in the digital age, are always present in these works.
For her exhibition Seeing is Believing at the PalaisPopulaire in Berlin, she even installed a livestream that transmitted images from the port of Beirut into the exhibition. Aoun’s work refers to the idea that data circulates like water, and focuses on issues like pollution of the sea and the migration crisis. The live stream also shows in an almost visionary way how closely art and daily political reality are intertwined. Just a few months after the show ended, on August 4, 2020, a catastrophic explosion destroyed large parts of the harbour and increased the major economic and political crisis in Lebanon.
For Aoun, the constant flood of images and data is like a "noise" that dominates our entire lives. Rather than amplifying this media noise, she concentrates it in her meditative works and gives it a material dimension. In this way, she aims to create new experiences, forms of visual "silence" that make it possible to comprehend and rethink contexts that are otherwise difficult to grasp.
About this article series
This article forms part of a special series celebrating Deutsche Bank’s 20 years as Global Lead Partner of Frieze art fairs, taking a closer look at one of 20 artists we have collaborated with and whose work features in the Deutsche Bank Collection.
Deutsche Bank's commitment to art and culture
Deutsche Bank is the Global Lead Partner for Frieze art fairs, with 2023 marking the 20th year of the partnership. As part of its Art & Culture commitment, Deutsche Bank has supported and collected the work of cutting-edge, international artists for more than 40 years. A global leader in corporate art programmes, the bank also runs an Artist of the Year programme, as well as its own cultural centre in Berlin, the PalaisPopulaire. All initiatives are based on the strong belief that engagement with art has a positive impact, not only on clients and staff but also on the communities in which the bank operates. Thus further collaborations such as the Deutsche Bank Frieze Los Angeles Film Award in the United States, The Art of Conversation in Italy, the Frieze x Deutsche Bank Emerging Curators Fellowship in the United Kingdom, and the digital platform Art:LIVE, create access to contemporary art for people all around the world. Discover more here.
Main image: Caline Aoun (detail) © Cherine Karam
Deutsche Bank Art & Culture