H: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (Installation - Hashish Cloud)

"Metabolism" Group Show, Beirut Art Center, Nov 2016

Material: Fog Machine, Slide Projector

Cost per Milligram of Smoke: 40 Cents

Note: The installation will be dismantled when it meets the allocated budget

Size: 5m x 5m room


“One of the most wanted fugitives of The Brotherhood of Eternal Love was [...] H. [...], a New York chemist who mastered the synthesis of LSD and was credited with the Brotherhood’s development of extremely potent hashish oil. In the late 1960s and early 1970s H. traveled for hashish supplies to the Bekaa Valley… A master of ten languages, H. claimed at various times in his career to be Lebanese or Palestinian. He was a mystery man to federal narcotics agents, who never succeeded in prying his file from the FBI… Finally, in 1975, Italian police were led by an anonymous call to arrest him in Bologna. Although suspected of murky involvement with Italian neofascists, secret service agents, and the PLO, H. by 1979 was a free man. He allegedly died the next year of unknown circumstances.”

Jonathan V. Marshal, “The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War, and the International Drug Traffic.”

It is mentioned that H. carried a copy of Robert Heinlein’s science fiction novel, “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”, with himself wherever he appeared. A much referenced dictum from the book is “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” (TINSTAAFL). TINSTAAFL has since been appropriated by economists to describe the market as a closed circuit of exchange - one’s never given something for nothing. This sense of radical closure as well applies to the whole of the universe, it reminds that all systems are closed - the sum of mass and energy in the cosmos, the total of leisure time and labour time, the sum of attention and expectation, and the sum total of fiction and fact.

The narcotics industry in Lebanon is inclusive and highly liquid. It surges and streams into the market and acts as a network facilitator in connecting underground monetary exchanges. A skilled shapeshifter, at times asset, at times currency, drugs morph into cash, weaponry, hostage, real estate, to classified information and cyber-espionage intelligence. This is because narcotics is unregulated but continues to be quasi-unsanctioned. During the times that the banking system turn precarious and corrupt, the lucrative drug economy has solid riskless assets to offer. Add the war, and it’s a match made in heaven: drugs fuel the war, the war fuels the drugs. The TINSTAAFL interest-machine makes of both, highly sustainable, hardly volatile markets.