Fathers, 2006

Fathers, 2006

This work, begun in 2005, is in the line of a series of recent works (photos and video in particular) made during recent years and that took shape during my round trips between Palestine and Europe .

These are photographic portraits made in shops, coffee shops, factories and other places where people live and work in Gaza. Their subject is the framed portraits of the “man of the house”, generally the founding father of the shop, now departed, or, more seldom, the present boss. They are hanging behind a desk, placed on the shelves or concealed behind a heap of products and goods that change according the specialty of the shop… A series of “unconscious compositions”* laid out by the owners of the place.

A sociologist could see, through this work, a questioning of the father's place in the Palestinian or Arab society, the perpetuation of hierarchical power and authority he has, after his death, through his image ... Here this gesture is rather a way for the successor (the son or relative), to pay tribute to "father" so it keeps his place and remains in the place that gave birth to a livelihood, and where he spent most of his life ...

Beyond any cultural or sociological analysis, and as well as in certain of my previous work, this series of photographs participates in a personal interest in this state (or non-state?) of present absence, or abscent presence, a state of 'between'. The representation of the disappearance and the relationship that is created between the image of "father" and the elements which constitute the photographic field bounded by the frame (the picture in picture) are, in some ways, for the merchant, an attempt to establish a relationship between environmental context and history of this place. For my part, this work is also more widely, a way to question the history and current events.


As I was collecting these portraits, I was also thinking about the meeting point between the intimate and public spheres : the portrait of the “father” is at the same time a private “monument”, a family reference, a social recollection of the patriarch and the public or collective, genealogical memory of the shop. The shop is both a space for life (inside) and a space for common daily and permanent exchanges (outside). Like the open door of the shop, the border between these two spheres is ambiguous, porous and unclear. Neither private nor public: an “in between” space.


Taysir Batniji

* Expression borrowed from Walter Evans



"I feel, indeed, that the power of these pictures resides in what they "hold back" as much as in what they reveal. Or, more precisely, in the modest claim they make that there is an inevitable gap between diverging readings and interpretations, here and elsewhere, in Gaza, Palestine and elsewhere. For the Gazan or the viewer familiar with the region, these "pictures of pictures" refer to a visual culture expert in all sorts of promiscuous juxtapositions, (with and all around the portraits of the Fathers are hung, according to the place, portraits of Arab leaders -Arafat, Saddam-, of martyrs -Sheikh Yassin, but also Rachel Corrie-, of Mecca, of the Koran); and though the Gazan may not feel concerned by the aesthetic treatment it will arrest the foreign viewer or the reader of the book. This elusive and irreducible gap between different readings of pictures, otherwise totally modern, raises the question of the conflict between historicities, a question which the notion of globalized art would like us to dispense with".


Catherine David