Tony Chakar is an architect, artist and writer whose work incorporates literature, philosophy and theory. He writes widely for art and architecture magazines while also teaching the history of art and architecture in Lebanon.
All that is Solid Melts into Air (2000) is a reproduction of the first modern map of Beirut drawn by the Danish Consul as a gift to the Ottoman Sultan. However, the map does not follow the conventions of mapmaking accepted universally today. Here, the north is at the bottom of the drawing. It is not known if this was a reference to the way the Danish Consul entered the city, from its port inwards, or a gesture to the Chinese and Arab traditions of mapmaking in which the south always pointed up. In any case, the map shows triumphant modernity beyond the ancient city walls as well as pre-modern signs of mapmaking as not everything in it is shown in vertical projection. The work reflects on the map as a pragmatic image as much as it does a ‘made object’; it is a constructed territory and a readable convention in specific historical circumstances.