The genesis of the Archaic Procession is found in the last few years of Karam’s decade in Japan. In Tokyo, he became fascinated with the transformational effect of shadow and light on an urban context, and how the city silhouette composed a linear story on the skyline at dawn. In the 90’s, the Archaic Procession emerged in his paintings as a visual vocabulary; a series of black, individual yet inextricably interconnected humanoid-animalesque shapes that became the basis of Karam’s artistic language. In his paintings, the shadows, or “roots” of the Archaic Procession Elements go deep into an underground to reach the places where the city’s memories are to be found. The fact that the figures move in procession owed much to Karam’s interest in- and study of- esoteric ceremonies conducted in Japanese Buddhist temples; in fact during two of his major performances in Japan he enacted his own procession rituals.
The Archaic Procession communicates in an archetypal language that goes beyond borders, cultures and creeds. The diversity of its shapes was Karam’s response to the Lebanese confessional or socio-political disparity as a cause for division and war. His figures, each different from the next, follow the same course, and share the same destiny.
The number of Archaic Procession figures – a lexigram of 1001 elements, is an oblique reference to Scheherazade, hinting that there are endless stories to be told. Eventually, the Archaic Procession left Karam’s sketches and canvases to take sculptural representation in the Sursock Museum, Beirut National Museum and Prague projects. For the Beirut downtown itinerant project, an interesting fragmentation took place. Playfully, they moved around the city, using absurdity as a basis for creating a dialogue with its spaces and recent history. They were becoming what Karam would later term Urban Toys.