“I’ve always wanted to be cremated after my death. But cremation is forbidden in Lebanon, for religious reasons. Earth to earth, say all the monotheistic religions. Well, sort of. The formulation may vary a little from one religion to the other but the idea is the same, the forbidden identical. But I’m absolutely set on being cremated, my mind’s made up, I’m not wavering. As a result, I ended up wasting a lot of time and energy trying to find a solution to my problem.”
Excerpt from Appendice, a performance by Lina Saneh
The prohibition of cremation is not only due to a certain conservative religious social mentality, but also to Lebanese laws and to the Constitution of the Lebanese State, which does not recognize Lebanese people as citizens having rights outside their religious communities. Lebanese people are thus forced to observe religious laws in matters relating to personal statutes (marriage, inheritance, divorce, burial, etc).
This problem, dull in itself and extremely personal, holds the merit of calling attention to one of the contradictions of the Lebanese State: Is Lebanon a constitutional State based on institutions supposed to guarantee and preserve the law, freedom of expression, of labor, of trade etc… following a liberal and modernist model – as it is repeatedly and incessantly told and promised – or is the State ruled by local religious communities, which stand between the State and the citizen, as is allowed by the Constitution itself, and thus preventing the establishment of a real State of law? This contradiction is not dull and brings about many a bloody conflict.
“I have long thought of the best way to evade religious law as ratified by state law...”
One day, Lina Saneh heard that in hospitals, when they excise organs or amputate limbs from a body due to certain diseases, they dispose of them by incineration. It rang in her ears. It occurred to her that this could be a possible solution to her problem. That is, she could submit herself to a series of operations in order to have parts of her body removed. The organs and limbs removed during these operations would then be cremated: thus she would try to conquer as much of the terrain of her body as she could, leaving as little as possible to be buried once she died.
She thought long, and developed this project, and was on the point of starting execution, when a lawyer friend of Lina’s told her that operations of ablation cannot be carried out without a valid medical reason. That is because the issue falls under the jurisdiction of what is called “medical ethics”, which maintains that it is forbidden to amputate any organ that is not ill. Even if the patient demands it. It is illegal to conduct experiments on the body or members of a being…
And this is how Lina Saneh was forced to change strategy. Based on famous artists’ examples having breached this kind of laws, she decided to change her plans, and to turn them into an art project.
Lina Saneh hence conceived the Lina Saneh Body pArts project which consists of two parts: