Mazen Khaddaj, Today Olives, Tomorrow Olives

Mazen Khaddaj: transforming identity 

According to artist Mazen Khaddaj, the beauty of art is the process of discovering yourself through the creative act. Looking into his internal world, the artist depicts feelings and emotions with paint and video performances. Like visions, the artist does not question them. His duty is to give life to these ideas with colours and forms. Art becomes the endless extension of Mazen’s thoughts and feelings, like an internal universe that becomes visible in the creative act. 

Mazen, the accidental artist

Mazen calls himself an ‘accidental artist’. Born in Lebanon, the artist followed his family’s recommendation and became a graphic designer. His encounter with the art world happened spontaneously, when a gallery in Beirut invited him to have a solo show. Since then, Mazen has been on his journey as a self-taught artist. The artist came to Leipzig for PILOTENKUECHE Interantional Art Residency in 2015. Since then he has been  living in Germany and building a new identity through painting, performance, installation and video.

Images supplied by the artist. Photo credits as listed.

In the 2017 series of paintings I am a foreigner, the artist portrays the contradictory feelings of his journey from Lebanon to Germany. In a mixture of excitement for the new and nostalgia for his homeland, the head represents his imagination, where he could be, while the feet become a symbol of where he is presently standing. 

Open to collaboration

If painting is the solitary elaboration of his deepest feelings, then performance is the living act. It is open to collaboration. It is also a way to give life to an idea and experimentation. In Ground Me and Spot the Foreigner, the artist explores the theme of identity. This time the perspective is not from his internal world, but rather through his interaction with society. The performances play with the feeling of being an outsider and the desire for grounding and stability in a transforming identity. The feeling of having a place, steady and secure, comes from this constant act of movement and exploration, both in his life and his creative journey. 

As an extension of his paintings, Mazen never works on live performances. He chooses to speak through video instead. With the video installation Laundry room, the artist expands his research on identity. In each video, Mazen plays with ink and white pieces of cloth to explore death and heritage. The videos and the white pieces of cloth were installed in an elevator. This element of movement added another level. Our consciousness keeps moving, while the ink remains proof of a past encounter.

Practice building through repetition

For his latest project, Mazen explores this endless transformation from a different perspective. He was inspired by his grandmother who always wanted olives on the table. Producing a 1minute video each day, olives become a symbol for creativity. Today Olives, Tomorrow Olives, Everyday Olives is a challenge to the artist’s imagination. Exploring multiple themes, Mazen investigates how creativity doesn’t ever really end because it is always transforming. What is left behind remains in new forms and new acts giving life to an endless creative journey. 

For the future, Mazen continues  working on the big challenge of publishing a video every day on Instagram for his Olives, taking Corona time as a challenge to discover a new perspective. Meanwhile, he is working with Ingrid Pumayalla for their collaborative performances and preparing a new exhibition in Amsterdam. .

written by Costanza Tagliaferri

If you want to know about Mazen’s projects and Olives, follow him on instagram and website

Mazen was a Resident Artist at PILOTENKUECHE from  June 2015 to September 2016 and as a local participant in RD 43, July-Sept 2020. He participated in numerous PK exhibitions. The latest was:

Delicious Procession

vernissage: Sat 30 May 8PM-10PM
venue: Kunstkraftwerk, Saalfelder Strasse 8b, 04179 Leipzig, Germany