Video Stills







Letter To A Refusing Pilot, 2013 Installation Images by Marco Milan





Letter To A Refusing Pilot, 2013 Video Stills



In the summer of 1982, a rumor made the rounds of a small city in South Lebanon, which was under Israeli occupation at the time. It was said that a fighter pilot in the Israeli air force had been ordered to bomb a target on the outskirts of Saida, but knowing the building was a school, he refused to destroy it. Instead of carrying out his commanders’ orders, the pilot veered off course and dropped his bombs in the sea. It was said that he knew the school because he had been a student there, because his family had lived in the city for generations, because he was born into Saida’s Jewish community before it disappeared.

As a boy, Akram Zaatari grew up hearing ever more elaborate versions of this story, for his father had been the director of the school for twenty years. In many ways, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon had been the backdrop to his education as an artist, as he began documenting the world around him by photographing explosions and recording the sounds of fighter jets. Decades later, during a public conversation with the Israeli filmmaker Avi Mograbi, Zaatari retold the pilot’s story in his own words, turning it into a fable and perhaps a truthful fiction. Then, after the transcript of the talk was published in a book, Zaatari discovered it wasn’t a rumor. The pilot was real.

Born and raised on a kibbutz, Hagai Tamir had never set foot in South Lebanon, but like Zaatari he had studied architecture, and he knew a schoolhouse (or hospital) when he saw one. His refusal to bomb the building had remained a secret, known only among small circles, for twenty years, until the day came when he found it useful to speak. That was ten years ago in Israel. Now, across a border still defined by a state of war, Zaatari has picked up the other side of an impossible correspondence.

Letter to a Refusing Pilot reflects on the many complexities, ambiguities and consequences of refusal as a decisive and generative act. Taking as its title a nod to Albert Camus’ four-part epistolary essay “Letters to a German Friend,” the work not only extends Zaatari’s interest in excavated narratives and the circulation of images in times of war, it also raises crucial questions about national representation and perpetual crisis by reviving Camus’s plea: “I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice.”



Time Capsule, Karlsaue Park, Kassel, 2012, dOCUMENTA (13)



Time Capsule, Karlsaue Park, Kassel, 2012, dOCUMENTA (13



The End of Time, 2012, film stills



The End of Time, 2012, Installation view. dOCUMENTA (13)


new press





Twenty-Eight Nights and A Poem, 2010

28 Photographs in wooden cabinet. C-prints, Super 8 loop, video projection and LCD screen, Variable durations, Installation view Haus der Kunst, Munich


Twenty-Eight Nights and A Poem, 2010

28 Photographs in wooden cabinet. C-print



Objects of study / Studio Shehrazade



Akram Zataari / Hashem el Madani Hashem el Madani: "Studio Practices"


Bodybuilders, 2011




Bodybuilders, 2011



"Another Resolution", 1998, Colour light jet prints, 25,3 x 20,3 cm each

The power of the photographer over his subjects is mostly manifested when parents take photographs of their children. While doing research on vernacular photography in the Middle East, I was confronted with so many image of naked boys, little girls in seductive poses, kids playing fools, girls playing ladies, boys with guns... In other terms, these are postures in which children assume ­a bit too early- typical gender roles, or if one may say, these are images in which parents imagine their children. "Another resolution", makes men and women reenact poses inspired by photographs of children. Two adults, a man and a woman reenact separately the same pose. This work questions the limit of accepted behavior in age and gender. The individuals who posed in this work are not professional models, but friends of the artist. This is why volunteers were difficult to find for the two poses that involved nudity.
Akram Zaatari  





 Earth of Endless Secrets is an ongoing research project, unearthing and examining a wide range of documents that testify to the current cultural and political conditions of Lebanon.






"Saida June 6, 1982", 2006-09
Composite Photograph, C-Print, 92 x 190 cm




"The Desert Panorama", 2002 - 06
Composite digital image, in two sizes:
C-Print, framed, 127 x 500 cm, C-Print, framed, 81 x 304 cm




"The Desert Panorama", 2007, Serie of C-Prints, each 91 x 112 cm




Untitled, (diptych), 2009, set of 2 C-Prints, 60 x 60 cm




Untitled, 2007, C-Print, each 91 x 112 cm




Untitled, 2007, set of 5 C-Prints, 91 x 112 cm




"Perfect Timing" ( a series of 8), 2006, set of 2 C-Prints, 28,5 x 19 cm




"Learning photography", 2009, set of 2 C-Prints, each 36,5 x 55 cm




"March Fourteen" (diptych), 2007, set of 2 C-Prints, 49 x 40 cm




Untitled, 1982-85, set of 2 C-Prints, each 91 x 112 cm




"Audiotapes", 2980-83, set of 9 C-Prints, 40 x 49 cm




Untitled, 2007, set of 2 C-Prints, 40 x 49 cm




"Learning Photography", 2009, C-Print, 73,3 x 110 cm






"Nature Morte - Landscapes", 2009, C-Print





"Nature Morte", 2008, 11 minutes, DV-Cam

Title in arabic: "Tabiaah Samitah with: Mohamad Abu Hammane and Ghayth el Amine"
edited by: Khalil Hajjar. Sound design: Nadim Mishlawi Filmed in Mohamad Abu Hammane’s house in Hubbariyeh in December 2007.
Produced for the Exhibition “Les Inquiets”. Centre National d’art Moderne Georges Pompidou.

This is a recording of a silent moment, in which 2 men prepare themselves for a military action. While the older one leaves at the end, weapon to his shoulder, the younger one decides to stay. In this video, Zaatari works with a former member of the Lebanese Resistance, Mohammad Abu Hammane, who was featured 11 years ago in his video "All is well on the border" (1997). His reappearance in this work is a transposition in time that evokes the awakening of an older resistant, now revisiting his military gear. This video was shot in Hubbariyeh, a Lebanese village located in the Aarqub area in South Lebanon, where the fidaeyin (Palestinian resistant fighters) based themselves in Lebanon in the late 1960s. The village is only few km away from the Israeli-occupied Shebaa farms, still disputed between Lebanon, and Israel. “Two men sit in the blue light of dawn. One is old and wizened. The other is young and baby-faced. As the old man makes explosives, the young man carefully mends the frayed cuff of a jacket. Which man will carry out the implied operation? What is the relationship between them and why does it seem so tender?”
(Kaelen Wilson-Goldie for Oberhausen Kurzfilmtage catalogue 2008)






"Nabih Awada. Badaro, Beirut.", 2007
C-Print, framed, 91 x 74 cm




"Letters from Askalan", 2007
C-Print, framed, 91 x 74 c







"Book of letters from family and friends", 2007
C-Print, framed, 91 x 74 cm




Untitled, 2007, set of 5 C-Prints, 49 x 40 cm




"Untold", 2008, a photo/video installation with 48 photograhs
2 videos and a lightbox









"The cancellation of the Front", 2007, C-Prints, 91 x 112 cm




Untitled, 2007, set of 5 C-Prints, 91 x 112 cm




Untitled, 2007, set of 5 C-Prints, 91 x 112 cm




"Le Monde (Friday August 18, 2006)"
2007, C-Prints, 74 x 91 cm


Earth of Endless Secrets

Earth of Endless Secrets refers to an ongoing project by Akram Zaatari that consists of unearthing, collecting and examining a wide range of documents that testify to the cultural and political conditions of Lebanon’s postwar society. Zaatari’s artistic practice involves the study and investigation of the way these documents straddle, conflate, or confuse notions of history and memory. By analyzing and re-contextualizing audiotapes, video footage, photographs, journals, personal collections, found objects, interviews and recollections, Zaatari explores the “dynamics that govern the state of image-making in situations of war.” With an almost archeological eye, the artist reveals the intimate layers of history contained in records of everyday experience.
The exhibition includes photographs and videos organized into four chapters each focused around four of Zaatari’s video projects. In All is Well on the Border, Zaatari presents three staged testimonies that shed light on the experiences of prisoners held in detention centers during the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon. In this tribute to Jean-Luc Godard's film Ici et ailleurs, notions of heroism and suffering emerge amid a dissection of the codes of representation and ideological indoctrination during times of conflict. Shot between Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, This Day examines the relationship between mental and actual geographies in the Middle East, investigating various modes of access to information including travel, television, and the Internet. In This House presents the story of a letter buried years ago by a former resistance fighter in the garden behind an occupied house in South Lebanon. The filmmaker endeavors to find it, but in so doing he provokes the ire and anxiety of the house’s residents, neighbors and nearby intelligence officials. Yet, the search yields joyfully unexpected results. In Nature Morte, an old, wise man sits making explosives with a young, baby-faced man who is carefully mending the frayed cuff of a jacket. Zaatari offers a meditation on the tender relationship between these two men and the unknown end of their implied operation.
Zaatari’s work often examines technologies of communication and notions of surveillance, foregrounding the way different media apparatuses get employed in the service of power, resistance, and memory. His work reflects on the shifting nature of borders and the production and circulation of images in the context of the current political divisions of the Middle East. As co-founder of the visual history of the Middle East. A major project by Zaatari has focused on the archive of studio Sherazade in Saida and the work of the photographer Hashem el Madani.
Earth of Endless Secrets was co-produced by Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Kunstverein München, and the Beirut Art Center, and was exhibited at the Kunstverein München in March 2009.  





Akram Zaatari


Akram Zaatari (* 1966 Saida, Lebanon) is a video artist, photographer, archival artist and curator who lives and works in Beirut. As author of more than 30 videos and video installations, Zaatari has been exploring issues pertinent to Lebanese postwar conditions, particularly the mediation of territorial conflicts and wars through television, the logic of religious and national resistance, and the production and circulation of images in the context of a geographically divided Middle East, such as in his feature length All is well on the border (1997), This Day (2003) and In This House (2005). As the Co-founder of the Arab Image Foundation (Beirut), Akram Zaatari based his work on collecting, studying and archiving the photographic history of the Middle East, notably studying the work of Lebanese photographer Hashem el Madani (*1928) as a register of social relationsships and photographic practices. His ongoing research formed the basis for a series of exhibitions and publications such as Hashem El Madani: Studio Practices (with Lisa Lefeuvre) or Mapping Sitting (collaboration with Walid Raad). Zaatari curated the Videobrasil “The Possible Narratives” (2004) and recently exhibited at the Sydney, São Paulo and the Gwangju Biennal in China (all 2006). He made text contributions in scholarly journals such as “Third text”, “Bomb”, “Framework“, „Transition“, and „Parachute“. He is a regular contributor, wirting on video, in „Zawaya”.
While constantly searching for photographic, video, oral or written documents, Akram Zaatari digs deep into the ground through the layers of history in order to bring that which was buried many years ago once again to the surface. - Narratives of history. Instead of following the politically motivated sources of information imposed upon us, Zaatari uses a different approach to convey and preserve a history based on incommunicable, personal experiences from daily life.
The installation for Art Basel 2007, “Earth of endless secrets”, is based on personal photographs and documents that Akram Zaatari took during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. He was then 16 years old, and it was the first time he used a camera.
The installation includes a large photographic print of a composite image that was generated >from six different photographs of explosions due to an air raid. The same image is animated in video form with audio documents recorded from that period.


Nina Möntmann:Akram Zaatari, Artforum (PDF)

Belinda Grace Gardner: Akram Zaatari, 2007 (PDF)







January 2010

Akram Zaatari

by Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

AKRAM ZAATARI’S ELEVEN-MINUTE VIDEO Nature Morte, 2007, opens with two men seated in a drab, white-walled room. One of the men—older, with a weathered face and sad, sunken eyes—fills the foreground on the right-hand side of the screen. The other—healthier, more alert—appears, slightly out of focus, in the background to the left. The dramatic depth of field exaggerates the distance between them and accentuates the incongruity of their tasks: Both men are working silently with their hands, but the older one is wrapping explosives in cardboard and tape, while the younger, with needle and thread, is delicately mending a jacket.

The camera lingers on this scene. At first the room is dimly lit, then flooded with fluorescent light, then, with a click, plunged into darkness—a power failure—and then, with a hiss, illuminated once again by the glow of a gas lamp. Daylight seeps in. The morning call to prayer sounds from a nearby mosque. The scene breaks, and the pace quickens. We see shot and countershot of the older man’s face, the younger man’s face, the two men facing each other in profile. Another jump cut and we are looking at a landscape: lush, green trees and a low stone wall snaking beside a narrow footpath. We see the older man trudging along that path—with a rifle and a rucksack, his jacket repaired, his lunch in a plastic bag—until he disappears.

Viewers familiar with the political history of Lebanon are likely to grasp the significance of the video’s setting, identified in the closing credits as the village of Hubbariyeh. Hubbariyeh is located a stone’s throw from Shebaa Farms, a slice of mountainous terrain at the intersection of Lebanon, Syria, and Israel. Ownership of the territory has been disputed between Lebanon and Syria for nearly a century, and Israel has occupied the area since 1967. Hezbollah, for its part, uses Shebaa Farms as a pretext for attacking Israeli soldiers and makes no secret of its ambition to retake the territory, a move that, if attempted, would almost certainly provoke a war. The ominous image at the end of Zaatari’s video, of the older man lumbering toward Shebaa Farms with a makeshift bomb on his back, makes that war feel all the more imminent.

Nature Morte was conceived for the Centre Pompidou’s 2008 exhibition “Les Inquiets” (The Anxious), which examined representations of war through the work of five contemporary artists on both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It marked a pivotal moment in Zaatari’s oeuvre, which comprises videos, photographs, multimedia installations, authored and coedited publications, an ambitious urban intervention in the Lebanese port city of Saida (where the artist was born), and two carefully curated film programs. Over the past decade, Zaatari has established himself in Beirut as one of the most respected artists of Lebanon’s so-called postwar generation. Like other members of that generation, he employs documentary practices while subverting them to expose the fallibility of both history and memory. Unlike his peers in Beirut, however, Zaatari doesn’t focus exclusively on Lebanon’s protracted civil war, emphasizing instead stories, conditions, and phenomena that have been overlooked or buried beneath that all-consuming narrative. He also doesn’t invent characters (such as the imagined photographer at the center of Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige’s Wonder Beirut project, 1997­2006, or the fictional personalities who populate Walid Raad’s work with the Atlas Group), but rather uses actual people and events. Zaatari’s creative process involves conducting extensive interviews with his subjects and gathering from them vast collections of letters, diaries, civic documents, snapshots, press clippings, home movies, cassette tapes, mementos, and more. In the videos that arise from this material, his subjects are almost always present, speaking on-screen in the manner of eyewitnesses offering testimony, though not always spontaneously: Sometimes they recite stories they’ve previously told the artist, and sometimes, when the subject is unavailable (because he’s in prison, for example), Zaatari enlists an artist or friend to perform the part.

Much of his work draws on the collection of the Arab Image Foundation, a Beirut-based nonprofit he founded in 1997 with the photographers Fouad Elkoury and Samer Mohdad. The foundation’s mandate is to collect and preserve examples of the region’s photographic heritage (artistic, vernacular, and commercial), but it doubles as a research center for its members, many of whom are, like Zaatari, artists with an interest in the archival. Zaat

ari’s work has often been shown internationally, in geographically themed shows, but recently it has received more general attention—a development that coincides with the stylistic break of Nature Morte. Leading up to this moment, Zaatari’s videos had been intensely talkative, hinging on anecdotes, testimonies, dirty jokes, and the potent imagery of idiomatic Arabic. Crazy of You, 1997, for example, features interviews with young men from the industrial suburbs of Beirut, who boast about acts of sexual conquest and domination; How I Love You, 2001, details the experiences of young gay men in Lebanon, who candidly describe how they conduct (and code) their lives; In This House, 2005, which documents the artist’s attempt to unearth a letter buried by militiamen in a garden in south Lebanon, features a cacophony of conversations with police officers, intelligence agents, and nosy neighbors.


Nature Morte, by contrast, is devoid of dialogue. The only sounds to be heard are ambient and apparently diegetic—the hiss of the gas lamp, the flare of a lighter, the crackling of radio static. The video is also visually spare, whereas Zaatari’s previous works accumulated dense layers of papers, objects, and images on-screen—this layering being an aesthetic strategy he shares with other Lebanese artists, such as Raad and Rabih Mroué. And it is the closest the artist has ever come to narrative cinema: His earlier works, even if they touch on a story or flesh out an anecdote, use fragmentation, essayistic or documentary tropes, and disjointed associations between still images and intertitles to undercut the narrative flow, whereas Nature Morte uses a smooth and expressly cinematic visual language to actually tell a story, even if an elusive and ambiguous one.

This finesse notwithstanding, Zaatari got his start in the freewheeling and somewhat rough-and-tumble world of Lebanese television in the mid-1990s. Having studied architecture at the American University of Beirut and media at the New School in New York, Zaatari was hired in 1995 as the executive producer of a morning television program for Future TV. Lebanon’s television industry had just been reorganized to curb the broadcasting excesses of the previous era; every party and militia across the political spectrum had set up its own station during the civil war. When the conflict ended, the government reduced the more than fifty channels to around ten. Future TV was one of the newer, more professional stations that aggressively recruited young creative types and gave them unfettered access to equipment, along with relative freedom to produce highly experimental documentaries—a liberty that the influential documentarian Mohamed Soueid was probably the first to embrace. Taking advantage of this atmosphere, many contemporary Lebanese artists got their start in TV. Zaatari’s earliest videos were originally screened as filler between the morning show’s segments.

Because Zaatari and other artists in Lebanon come from backgrounds outside fine art—not only from television and other professional fields but also from academic programs in visual culture and media studies—their connection to the country’s art history is tenuous at best, and they have little interest in the local artists who preceded them throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, whether landscape painters, social realists, Abstract Expressionists, or avant-garde performers. Indeed, it has been argued that one of the main problems afflicting Beirut’s (often factionalized) contemporary art scene is that the current generation cannot enact any kind of Oedipal struggle, because no “father” in the sphere of contemporary art exists as such. (Soueid comes closest to playing the part, but he is not much older than Zaatari and his peers and, moreover, has made a point of operating outside the art world and within the parameters of television and feature film.) In interviews, Zaatari has said he feels a closer kinship to his predecessors elsewhere, such as Harun Farocki and Jean-Luc Godard.

Yet kinship is something Zaatari continues to seek in his own country and within a distinctly local context. His videos conjure a kind of imagined community of men who have, like him, made images, told stories, and assembled vast collections of seemingly ephemeral materials. Significantly, these men are seldom, if ever, artists. More often they are camera technicians, photojournalists, studio portraitists, or prisoners taking photographs or recording videos to send to their families and friends. Zaatari doesn’t turn them into artists, but he does turn their lives and experiences into art. Take, for example, Hashem El Madani, who was born in 1928 and spent more than five decades working as a commercial photographer in Saida. Hundreds of thousands of his negatives are in the collection of the Arab Image Foundation, and he is the subject of a long-term project Zaatari initiated a decade ago, which has yielded numerous works in a range of formats. Through this engagement with El Madani’s archive, Zaatari teases out histories of the ways in which photography has been used—functions ranging from the crudely political (a parliamentary candidate shoring up support by commissioning voter-identification photos) to the intensely personal (young men and women using the space of El Madani’s studio to enact fantasies or embody gender-bending identities).

With such projects, Zaatari traces an alternative lineage for contemporary art, one in which the most meaningful links do not go between generations of artists but rather cut across the various disciplines, professions, and economies that govern the making of images—with a particular eye toward times of political unrest and places marked by conflict. Here it’s worth noting that Zaatari’s characters, the members of his imagined community, are often both imagemakers and militants. His oeuvre is full of such subtle but unmistakable reminders that artists, writers, and filmmakers are never entirely outside the conflicts they cover, reflect on, or critique. The fluidity of these roles—producer of images versus fighter; observer of wars versus partisan—is a crucial dynamic in Zaatari’s work.


This was particularly evident in the artist’s recent survey, on view at the Kunstverein München in the spring of 2009 and, in expanded form, in Beirut at Galerie Sfeir-Semler and the Beirut Art Center the following summer and fall. The exhibition, which Zaatari curated himself, was divided into five “chapters,” each organized around a video and supported by photographs, texts, and other printed matter. Each, further, illuminated the story of one of the men Zaatari has known, interviewed, and befriended over the course of many years. One chapter, clustered around the video This Day, 2003, dwelled on the elderly historian Jibrail Jabbur, who discusses the research on nomadic Bedouin tribes in Syria that he conducted in the 1950s with the Armenian photographer Manoug. By 2003, the tribes’ traditional way of life had disappeared, while Manoug’s images remain.

Two chapters shared not only a focus on a hidden letter but an interest in complicating perceptions of the militant persona. The first focused on photojournalist Ali Hashisho: In the aforementioned video In This House, Hashisho tells Zaatari (and us) about his days as a leftist militant, occupying an abandoned house with his comrades and burying a note for the owners, should they ever return. Zaatari conveys Hashisho’s story through a combination of interview footage and an assemblage of Hashisho’s belongings—pages from his diary, his ID cards and press credentials, and souvenirs he collected from “the front,” including bits of rock, acorns, and dried leaves. Then the artist heads to the house with a camera, a gardener, and a shovel. Against expectations, he unearths the letter, which has been preserved in a mortar casing for fifteen years. It proves disarmingly sentimental, full of clumsy quips and Khalil Gibran quotes. The second of these chapters centered on the video Letter to Samir, 2008, which concerns Nabih Awada, also a former leftist militant, who was imprisoned in Israel for ten years. During that time, Awada wrote letters prolifically, often in a minuscule script on thin sheets of paper he then meticulously folded and wrapped in cellophane. In Letter to Samir, Zaatari meets with Awada ten years after his release and asks him to write a letter to Samir Kuntar, a high-profile militant. As Awada scribbles, we have time to peruse a wall text informing us that it was common practice among prisoners to conceal their correspondence beneath their tongues and to pass it on to visitors, particularly fellow party members, by kissing them on the mouth.

The remaining two chapters served as bookends for the exhibition. These focused on Mohammad Abu Hammane, the older man in Nature Morte and also the subject of Zaatari’s All Is Well on the Border, 1997. In All Is Well, we learn that Abu Hammane, too, is a leftist fighter who has been displaced by the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon and has taken up temporary employment in Beirut as a camera technician. Coming to Nature Morte with this knowledge in mind, and having wended one’s way through the other tales Zaatari told in this exhibition, one realized that Zaatari’s recent film is as much a convergence as a departure. In many ways, it knits together the varied concerns—constructions of masculinity and the bonds men share, political conflicts and geographic territories that resist representation, the inner lives of former militants and fighters associated with leftist movements that have become irrelevant or obsolete—that Zaatari has been exploring throughout his career. Early in All Is Well, Abu Hammane teaches Zaatari how to manipulate images by adjusting the aperture and the zoom on his lens—teaches him, that is, how the camera can distort reality. Yet as his grim exit in Nature Morte suggests, however much the camera distorts reality, it does not escape it. Neither does Zaatari; rather, he parses its dizzying mediations and its political, affective, and aesthetic contradictions.
Kaelen Wilson-Goldie is a critic based in Beirut.





Film / Video Productions

DANCE TO THE END OF LOVE, 2011, 4-channel video projection, color, sound, dimentions variable

ON PHOTOGRAPHY PEOPLE AND MODERN TIMES, 2010, 2-channel synchronized HD projection, color, stereo sound, 39 min
This work tells stories behind photographs that the artist has researched and acquired for the Arab Image Foundation in the early years of its creation in the late nineties, particularly from lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. It is a work about how photography accompanied people in modern times, but it is also about the limits of conservation, loneliness and aging.

TOMORROW EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGH, 2010, DVD, colour, sound, 11:44 min.
An evening online chat between two men who haven't met since the turn of the millennium lead to their reunion after 10 years of separation. An unsettling use of the technology of communication and of recording, and writing makes the film an iconic story of love, longing and loss. Is it a dream, a script, or true love everyone longs for? It is a tribute to Eric Rohmer who taught us the attention to details of our daily life, and to look for a green ray at every sunset.

L'ENLEVEMENT, 2009, HDV video, color, sound, 16 min
This work gives tribute to the mechanisms of image production, to those modest or sophisticated machines that marked popular consciousness of the twentieth century with images, films, situations, action, heroes and beauties. "L'Enlevement" is a part of an ongoing excavation in studio Shehrazade in Saida, across layers of iconography, technological inventions, trade, aesthetics, fashion and notions of work. "L'Enlevement" is the title of an episode of a famous British TV series, which was entitled THE PROTECTORS, dating back to 1972.

NATURE MORTE, 2008, Video, DV-Cam, color, sound
This is a recording of a silent moment, in which 2 men prepare themselves for a military action. While the older one leaves in the end, weapon to his shoulder, the younger one decides to stay. In this video, Zaatari works with a former member of the Lebanese Resistance, Mohammad Abu Hammane, who was featured 11 years ago in his video «All is well on the border» (1997). His reappearance in this work is a transposition in time that evokes the awakening of an older resistant, now revisiting his military gear. This video was shot in Hubbariyeh, a Lebanese village located in the Aarqub area in South Lebanon, where the fidaeyin (Palestinian resistance fighters) based themselves in Lebanon in the late 1960s. The village is only few km away from the Israeli-occupied Shebaa farms, still disputed between Lebanon, Syria and Israel.

LETTER TO SAMIR, 2008, DVCam, color, mono sound, 32min. (Shown as a wall projection)
Communication between political prisoners in different prisons in Israel happened through letters made with msamsameh writing, i.e. written with tiny letters, as tiny as sesame seeds. These letters discussed security issues especially with the prisons' central leadership in Nafha and Askalan. The letters were wrapped twice or more with plastic and sealed like a capsule, because capsules used to be swallowed by prisoners in order to be transported secretly out of prison. They were later extracted, cleaned, and delivered to a second prisoner, identified to be heading to the designated destination. The capsules used to be swallowed again before they reached their final destination. In rare instances, capsules were delivered while kissing through the fence of the visiting area.
In this video, Nabih Awada writes a letter to Samir al-Qintar right after his release by the Israelis in July 2008. In his letter, Awada tells al-Qintar all what he cannot tell him in real, and carefully wraps the letter and seals inside a plastic capsule.

HANDS AT REST, 2006, b/w video, mute, 8:47 min.

SAIDA, JUNE 6th 1982 (AIR RAID), 2003, Video, color, sound, 75sec (loop)
This short video is based on six still photographs that Zaatari took from the balcony of his parents' apartment in Saida on June 6, 1982. It was the first day of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The artist was 16 years old, and had been learning photography using his father's Kiev 35mm camera for more than a year. This is why he had his camera loaded and ready all the time to take pictures whenever an explosion or shelling occurred. In 1982, he had already photographed few insignificant air raids that were far in the south of Saida, including the bombing of the Zahrani Refinery. These were times Zaatari describes as absolute boredom as people of his age rarely went out except at school. This is how Zaatari started recording sound, taking notes, and photographs on a regular basis.
This video is a detail from a longer video documentary entitled:
"This Day" (AUJOURD'HUI, 86 minutes, 2003), where the artist examines the first documents he made during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

THIS DAY, 90min, 2003. Shot between Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, this essay superposes modes of transportation, video, and photography to comment on our society’s relationship to iconography, modernity, and questions the meaning and value of documents.

THE SINGULAR OF SEEING, 17min, 2003. A video-conference on documents in fiction films.

THE DESERT PANORAMA, 2002 Video, b/w, 9 min, loop
The Desert Panorama is based on a photographic work by scholar Jibrail Jabbur and photographer Manoug, produced in Syria in the fifties. The photographs were produced as an illustration of Jabbur›s ongoing research on the movement of Bedouins in the Syrian Badia.
Jibrail Jabbur (1900 – 1991) Born in Al Quaryatayn, a village on the edge of the Syrian Desert, he moved to Beirut to study at the
American University, where he became professor of Arabic literature and later Chairman. Jabbur has been studying the movement of the Bedouin tribes in the Syrian Desert since the thirties. Somewhere in the 50s he took his friend, the Lebanese- Armenian photographer Manoug, with him to the Syrian Desert to document aspects of life in it. The result of this collaboration was published in Arabic in 1988, and in English in 1995.

HOW I LOVE YOU, 29 mins, 2001. An exploration of sexuality among gay men in Lebanon.

TRANSITVISA, (in collaboration with M. Hojeij) 4 episodes 30 mins each, 2001. Nine artists from Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Palestine meet to discuss their relationship to their immediate environment.

her + him, VAN LEO, 32 mins, 2001. A nude portrait of a grandmother is a pretext to visit the Armenian/Egyptian photographer Van Leo. It is a piece that juxtaposes photography and video, black and white vs. color to comment on the transformations that took place in Egypt over 50 years of its recent history.

BAALBECK, 60mins, 2001. Project in collaboration with two filmmakers: Mohamad Soueid and Ghassan Salhab.

RED CHEWING GUM, 10 mins, 2000. A video letter inspired by issues of separation and departure as they seem relevant to Hamra street.

MAJNOUNAK, (Crazy Of You), 26 mins, video, 1997. Exploring images of masculinity through stories told by young men from the Beirut suburb.

ALL IS WELL ON THE BORDER, 43 mins, video, 1997. The difficulty in representing zones of conflicts such as the case of the occupied zone in South-Lebanon. LOVE, 27 mins, 1997. A documentary where the director and his friend, Fouad elKoury, look for the craftsmen who paint the giant portraits of Assad in Damascus.

“PICTURES” ,1995-96. A series of short stories (10mins each) about people’s relation to images. Part of this series are: Gift, Reflection, A Family Portrait, Like a Dream, and The Candidate.

“IMAGE + SOUND”, 1995-96. A series of short video essays (7mins each) which explore aspects of  television experience. Part of this series are Teach Me, Remote Control, Countdown, Singing, Mourning and Photographs, Travel, and Polaroid. 

“HOME”, video, 1994. Short documentaries (10mins each) where residents of French Mandate buildings in Beirut (1920 - 1940.) are housewives who count the history of the family and the social change in the neighborhood and the family system. Parts of this series are The Fountain, Make-up, Abdel-Halim...  

DISTANT SHADOWS, 11 mins, video. 1993. (Producer/director) A narrator revisits his city after a destructive war. An essay about the nature of exile in one’s own country. Co-directed by Rashad El-Jisr.

BEFORE SHE REACHES GRANDMA’S PLACE, 5 mins, 16mm. 1993 (producer/director). Before reaching her grandma’s place, Margarita goes through an accident on 14th St (NY). This short film is about her journey.

Videos are distributed through V-Tape (Toronto), Video Out (Vancouver), Third World Newsreel (NY), Arab Film distribution (Seattle), and Heure Exquise! Distribution (France).

Served on festival selection committees, among which are “Oberhausen”, "The Asian-American Film Festival in NY," and the Beirut Film Festival.  Served also as a member of the jury at the “Prix du documentaire méditerranéen” – Palermo ’98”. Curator of the "Greek Film Week" at the Beirut Theater 1996.


Work exhibited at:

Sydney Biennale

University of California,  Sta Barbara
Grey Art Gallery, NY
Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Hamburg, Beirut,
Galerie Sfeir-Semler ARCO/Madrid
ACTicino Bellinzona/ Switzerland
Abaton Kino Hamburg 

SF Cinematheque
Taiwan Int’l Doc Film Festival
SENEF, Seoul
Film Museum, Frankfurt
Portikus, Frankfurt
Singapore Art Museum.
Nam June Paik Award, Dortmund
The Photographers’ Gallery, London
Biennale des Cinémas Arabes. IMA – Paris
FID Marseille
Lift, London
Tanit Gallery, Munich
Centre pour l’Image Contemporaine, St.
Gervais, Genève.
Torino Gay & Lesbian film festival
Musée Nicéphore Niépce, Chalon-sur-Soane
bit-teatergarasjen, Bergen

Museum of Contemporary Arts, Athens
Centro Juan de Mariana, Toledo
Homeworks II, Beirut.
Fest. du Cinéma Méditerranéen, Montpellier
Cinémathèque française, Paris
Yamagata Int’l Doc film festival
Videobrasil, Sao Paulo
Vitra Design Museum, Berlin
Impakt, Utrecht
World Wide Video Festival, Amsterdam
25hrs, international videoart show, Barcelona
Haus der Kulturen der Werlt, Berlin
Kunstenerneshus, Oslo
!F, Istanbul 

Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Koln
Palais des Beaux-Arts, Bruxelles
OVNI, Barcelona
Homeworks, Beirut
Kurzfilmtage, Oberhausen 

IDFA, Amsterdam
VideoLisboa, Portugal
Biennale of the Moving Image, Geneva
Argos, Brussels
Impakt, Utrecht
Videobrasil, San Paolo
WorldWideVideo Festival, Amsterdam Piano Nobile, Geneva
Centre Culturel Français, Damas
EMAF, Osnabruck, Germany
Videoex, Zurich 

Centre Culturel Français à Damas, Syria
Borusan Center, Istanbul
NYU Cantor Film Center, NY
The American University of Beirut, Lebanon
Hamra street project, Ashkal Alwan - Beirut
Townhouse Gallery, Cairo 

OVNI, Barcelona
San Francisco Cinematheque
Pacific Film Archives, San Francisco
Darat el-Founoun, Amman - Jordan
Townhouse Gallery, Cairo 

Biennale des Cinema Arabes. IMA – Paris
Videobrasil, Sao Paulo.
Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, Turkey
Beirut Film Festival.
Kasseler Dokumentarfilm & Videofest, Germany 

Banff Centre for the Arts
Inside-Out, Toronto
Pesaro Film Festival, Italy
Ayloul Art Manifestation, Beirut 

“Biennale Des Cinemas Arabes,”L'institut du Monde Arabe – Paris.
“…East of here… Re-Imagining the Orient” YYZ Artist's Outlet - Toronto,
Pacific Film Archive - Berkeley, California
Videobrasil, International Festival of Electronic Arts - Sao Paolo,
“Centenial of Arabic Cinema” the Walter Reade Theater of the Lincoln Center - NY 

“Image Quest”, Theatre De Beyrouth,
“Here and Elsewhere”(Update) Turbine Halls - Copenhagen

MESA-North Carolina