Verbal Duplicities

  • Verbal Duplicities is an art book that tells the story of a love affair between two personified cities, Beirut and New York. The pages are vintage airmail envelopes with a letter and souvenir (postcards, photographs, handkerchiefs, greeting cards) in each, bound together under a leather cover. 

    In order to create the characters, people living in NYC and Beirut were asked the question: If this city were a person, what would that person be like? What would their habits, features, personality traits, friends, relationships, etc. be like? The characters were developed based on the results as well as my personal views on the two cities. 

    The letters begin with New York contacting Beirut years after having spent a night together, after which neither had bothered to contact the other. He is looking for his father's watch, which he presumes he may have left in the hotel room that night. Beirut responds teasing and provoking him, saying she may or may not have it- she has too many watches to remember which one is his. This spurs a series of insults back and forth between the two, interrupted by a photograph enclosed in one of the envelopes. It is of a destructed Beirut (it is in fact a postcard of war-torn Beirut during the civil war of 1975), and we later discover that she has been abused by her uncle. NY begins to develop feelings for her and the story spirals into a forbidden love story between the two; she is now married and refuses to leave her husband. The story ends abruptly after NY sends Beirut some money to visit him, and she disappears. The reader is left wondering whether something has happened to her or whether she has stolen the money. 

    A special thanks to Dana Ballout for editing the content of the letters. 
  • Photograph of young NY and Christmas greeting card
  • Handkerchief and letter from Beirut
  • Postcard from Beirut (back of young Beirut)
  • Description of uncle abusing Beirut