In revisited old photographs, Dor Guez highlights the multiplicity of history
The framed wedding photo that Dor Guez a from his grandmother, Samira, was torn and bent when he first found it in a suitcase of family photos. A white gash enveloped her forehead in place of a bridal veil, the damage to the image eerily matching her subject. Before enlarging and printing the image, Guez used his custom scanogram technique to scan the ragged photograph three times into a layered composite which gave the texture of the torn area. “She looks straight into the camera, and in a way, the story looks at you,” Guez says of this spellbinding manipulated readymade, which hangs in her Jaffa living room and at the entrance to her exhibition. the most complete institutional solo to date. , opening to the Bogota Museum of Modern Art (MAMBO) on March 10. “It represents the divide and the diaspora of 1948, and the time when borders were erected and communities were divided and destroyed.”
Samira’s wedding took place in the city of Lod (also known as Lydda) in 1949, a year after Israeli military forces took control of her hometown of Jaffa. It was the first Palestinian marriage after the Nakba (Arabic for disaster) – the mass exodus of Palestinians from lands claimed by Israel during the 1948 war. The story that looks at us through her eyes is that of 1948 and its aftermath, a story that Guez, born in Jerusalem, is particularly well placed to tell as an artist of Palestinian Christian and Jewish Tunisian origin. Disaster is the title and subject of his exhibition, featuring works created between 2008 and this year, including video installations, photographs, scanograms and original sources, with some works being presented for the first time.
“The more you deal with a specific narrative, like my own family’s personal disaster, the more it tells a larger story,” Guez says of the universal themes he hopes to resonate with audiences in Bogotá and later in Mexico City. , when Disaster trip to Laboratorio Arte Alameda. Eugenio Viola, chief curator at MAMBO (and curator of the Italian pavilion at the 2022 Venice Biennale), adds that “even if he works on a precise social, geographical, political situation and context, it can give a broader overview on intolerance”.
The works exhibited for the first time, a three-channel video installation titled Colony (2022), photographic series entitled Disaster (2021) and a video work titled hippos (2022) – are new and old, since Guez uses historical archives and places as starting points. The artist harnesses the potential of time-worn images and expands their meaning, leading viewers to see history afresh.
In Colony, which Guez has been working on for five years, scientific close-ups of locusts and black-and-white images of insect swarms in British Mandatory Palestine evoke biblical plagues. Images migrate between the film’s three screens to a high-pitched soundtrack of grasshoppers, as ominous Arabic narration describes encroaching colonies with ambiguous language that could apply to locusts or humans. “The ability of organisms to convert from harmless individuals into a synchronized, ruthless unit is unsettling,” says the narrator, in an omniscient documentary tone. Some images almost line up between the screens, but the partitions shift them.
Fragmentation is repeated as a formal feature in many works exhibited in Disaster. hippos, a video filmed at an ancient Hellenistic site in the Golan Heights, is split into two channels, one historical, the other contemporary. the Disaster A series of landscape photographs show a pine forest planted by the Jewish National Fund after 1948 near Lod where the de Guez family lived, obscuring the remains of Palestinian homes damaged during the Nakba. The photos of these fallen trees and these broken arcades are split into triptychs. Another photographic series, 40 days (2013), documents the deliberate desecration of family gravestones in Lod with images themselves poetically eroded after being hidden in a kitchen drawer (the police were unable to use them to track down the perpetrators of the hate crime and returned the photos to Guez’s family, who put them in a drawer for years).
One of the source materials that Guez exhibits is also fragmented. Since he uses a lot of documents and archival materials, the artist exhibits original objects alongside his works. Close to Disaster landscape photographs. “The two images look alike, but they have differences in perspective,” Guez explains. “These are intersecting perspectives, but to get a three-dimensional image, you need both.”
According to Guez, recognizing multiple narratives and perspectives is a crucial step in getting the full picture. In the works presented in Disasterhe tells the story of his family’s Nakba and records it in the historical record.
“My work is not about proving who is right and who is wrong. Dichotomous thinking doesn’t interest me,” says Guez. “The idea is also to expose narratives that to some extent oppose the concept of nationalism.”
- Dor Guez: Catastrophee, March 10-August 28, at Bogota Museum of Modern Art