"An identical copy of my glass key ring from Gaza. This project is part of a series of projects developed since June 2006, when I left Gaza without being able to return. Among these works, Suspended time (2006): hourglass installed horizontally, Man does not live on bread alone (2007): molding of article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Swiss chocolate… The same text was engraved in Marseille soap: L’homme ne vit pas seulement de pain #2 (2012-2013).
These projects not only express the frustration felt at this forced roaming, but also reveal, through the daily immobilization suffered by Palestinians, the impossibility of controlling and shaping space and time. This personal dispossession of the home echoes the collective dispossession of the land in 1948, since which time Palestinians, in the hope of a return, have kept the keys to their homes (Untitled, 1997, rusty key prints on rolled canvas)."
No condition is permanent, 2014
The ephemeral sculpture is composed of Hundreds of soap bars, piled up on a wooden pallet, isolated in the middle of a room. The Arabic saying Dawam el Hal Men Al Mohal, which means « No condition is permanent » is engraved on each bar, with a stamp specially made for the installation.
In Arab countries, this sentence is used when people are confronted with painful situations, like the loss of an acquaintance. The adage brings comfort and hope in difficult moments by carrying the idea that pain will not last. But, in fact, this hopeful sentence carries its own contradiction, emphasizing the weight of relativity on human conscience. It sounds like a reminder of our own condition.
The fragility of this faith in better days is highlighted, not only by encouraging people to take away part of the art piece with them, but also by the fragility of the material itself. The artist previously touched upon the frailty of material in the installation Man Does Not Live on Bread Alone #2 (2012-2013), for which he engraved on household soaps the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ article 13.
Contrary to a message engraved on stone, one stamped on a bar of soap is doomed to vanish with time and use.
"A long line of embroidered red curls, Laughter first reminds the viewer of a typical arabesque pattern. Although it uses a traditional style of Palestinian embroidery, in reality it seizes an Internet trend borrowed from the young generation: the transcription of laughter by « hahahahahaha » which in the Arabic alphabet yields a long ornamental line.
The word and its meaning are revealed by the contrast between the thread’s blood-red color and the white fabric on which the letters have been hand-embroidered.
Laughter, the expression of an ephemeral and furtive emotion, is delicately frozen on the canvas, thereby acquiring a permanent form. As it becomes a singular pattern, product of social media, its existence is established, as are its deficiencies. Out of context, this expression appears absurd and static. While it gained a form and an aesthetic, it lost its musicality.
The pattern also seems as soft as it is sharp. While the line can be seen as a simple decorative ornament, it resembles a serrated blade that cuts through the fabric with the geometric cross-stitching.
Playing with the tension between shape and meaning of words, the installation confronts places and temporalities. An ancient and local technique is used to depict a recent and transnational expression, while the spontaneity of the interjection contradicts the long process of embroidery."
Imperfect lovers, 2013
"The Hannoun project (poppy in Palestinian dialect) is based on scattering red pencil shavings on the ground. The red shavings suggest the appearance of a field of poppies: an impalpable landscape that one observes as in a dream from an un-crossable vantage point.
This piece follows several performative projects, undertaken in the last few years that evoke notions of memory, erasure, non-being, and destruction/construction or (deconstruction /restitution). Each of these 'acted shapes' is the result of obsessional, repetitive, and often useless or absurd gestures which curator Julie Pellegrin describes as: 'Devoid of any efficiency, it [the act] sides with what is unproductive and a waste of time.' In the Impossible Journey I used a shovel to move a pile of sand, from one side of an imaginary line to the other, to the point of sheer exhaustion. In another work Like Water, I write with a brush, for over two hours and within a marked perimeter the 109 Arabic words that signify water and which were cited, according to Ibn Sida, by Mahmoud Darwish in his book 'Memory for Forgetfulness.' The result is an unproductive production: when I start writing the second or the third line, the first words are absorbed in the floor’s covering until they completely disappear.
In Palestinian consciousness and literature, the poppy has often been associated with the memory of freedom fighters. Despite this obvious symbolism, and especially through the repetitive act of pencil sharpening, Hannoun relates to a childhood memory. At school, to make sure we learnt our lessons we had to copy them by hand with a pencil, many times, especially during the holidays. Unconsciously trying to escape this exercise, I would spend my time sharpening pencils, under the pretext that they were never sharp enough. Invariably, I would skip my homework.
Hannoun was thought – beyond any political or geographical concern – as an ideal space, a space of meditation, of dream, an intimate sphere, light, fragile yet imposing at the same time…an impenetrable space…inaccessible…mirroring my Atelier (22.06.2006-07.06.2009) in Gaza. Barely had the construction of my atelier in Gaza been completed in 2001, I had to leave again. Each year, when I return home (which is no longer possible since the borders were closed by the Israelis in 2006), I open my studio, abandoned ever since, go over my things and clear the dust on the ground. By then, it would be time to leave again, and the atelier is closed once more.
Gaza has become a real yet unreachable place of production. Paris, or elsewhere, offers the possibility of production without the physical space to realize it. Just as an atelier is a space in which to elaborate, construct and work, Hannoun is “the attempt of an oeuvre” where what we perceive is not so much a finished product but rather the traces of its possible realization.
Living 'between two worlds', my work tries to escape any strict circumscription. It follows what Edward Said refers to as '…a double perspective in which nothing is ever perceived in isolation […] each idea, each experience is put in relation to another, appearing, both reunited, in a new and often unpredictable light.'
My projects, even the most ephemeral, tend to have an existence sustained through time, that is not consumed by the actual event or situation they evoke. What can we say that holds meaning beyond the event itself without keeping silent to what is going on? I try in my work to question the political, social, and cultural context, as well as my country’s realities, while keeping the necessary distance to everyday news. For me, more than anything else, it is about artistic endeavor, a personal, subjective, and poetic way of looking."
Text co-written with Sophie Jaulmes and translated by Carole Corm.