A R C H I V E2 0 0 1  


in/tangible cartographies
new arab video

How do you represent the unrepresentable, unrepresentable due to over exposure or lack of exposure? How do you represent what has been drained of meaning, misrepresented to the point of oversaturation, yet underappreciated and neglected to the point of absurdity? Is it even futile to attempt such an endeavour... maybe, is it advisable, perhaps not.

Jayce Salloum



Silence like time stretches eternally and when the Arab subject speaks, who listens and with what preconceived notions constricting the interpretation of the words and images? We do not perceive without a massive amount of baggage informing or misinforming us [aren't these the same thing?]. We cannot perceive as neutral subjects, we are too far gone for that. It confirms the fact that we are true creatures of habit in that we insist on trying to fool ourselves that we can be 'objective', as if there was such a thing.

We have (too) many images for this place/this region and as many names but none of them are accurate or adequate: Middle East, Near East, North Africa, Magreb, Levant, Holy Land, Arab world, Muslim world, the Orient. We have too few names for the people of these places. There is a certain violence in not naming (non-recognition), just as there is an innate violence in the naming (i.e. 'terrorist' or 'prisoner') that we engage in.

If you don't recognize a people they do not exist and are treated as such whether as individuals, a community, culture, or nation. This place has been over and under-reproduced throughout the history of its representation by its visitors, its conquerors, its 'allies' and those that are passing through or situating themselves on these lands for various parts of their lives. These representations are ours. We are implicated within these constructions. Our histories are present and our projections firmly entrenched. 'Understanding' is not possible, the 'subject' can never be 'known'. The most we can ever hope for is a limited awareness of the situation on the ground, a kind of empathy, and a sense of the subjectivities at stake.

This 'program' seeks to provide an audience for a range of work by established, little-known, and completely unknown Arab videomakers living in this (unnameable) 'region'. It also includes the work of those in exile, or 'dispossession' as are Palestinian videomakers inside and outside of the 'occupied territories'. Living life, loss, love, histories, territoriality, and the failure of justice, home, memory, repression, power, occupation, neglect, rejection, resistance, youth, gender discrepancies, the body, sexuality, violence, ego, patriarchy/authoritarianism, representation, retrospection, fragmentation, displacement, exile, otherness, image, identity, struggles of self, will, survival, commitment, and responsibility are the dominant motifs. Their trajectories are traced within composite movements, singular subjectivities and a multiplicity of methodologies. In lieu of being silenced and having one's existence ignored or obliterated, these works account for marginalized voices of experience, composing a history denied and substantiating a presence, a concrete discursive body of work.
How do you represent what has been made unrepresentable by being rendered benign or sensational due to facile coverage, effacement, omission, repression, or unfamiliarity? For instance how do you represent the Palestinian 'condition' - to state this seems damaging as if there is one Palestinian condition exclusive to living under Israeli occupation (which will soon be the longest military occupation in history), in a refugee camp, or in the dispersion, 'Al Nakbah' providing a legacy and overwhelming encumbrance for all. The same can be said for the Lebanese 'case', the Algerian 'situation' or any other over-determined geographical, ideological, or sexual categorization. The categories themselves doing violence in the name of representation.
These videotapes strategically blur the distinctions between conventional genres, not for stylistic reasons but in an attempt to find an appropriate form of representation for the issues being tackled. Whether resurrecting one from the ashes of tradition or inscribing distinctive tendencies they carve out a 'diction' or landscape of their own. The personal often intervenes - the reflexive mirroring that takes place when the making of the object collides with the responsibility to the context, the histories involved, and the subjectivities impacted. There is an additional weight here, the tradition of story telling; the oral, lyrical, musical, theatrical, and filmic heritage that resonate in Arab culture at large ('filmic' because historically, production has been predominately cinematically informed with video influences arriving recently to the scene). The resolution of the relationships is not always necessary or desirable when extricating oneself from these streams of influence, the video process itself makes the decisions viable.

There is a fluency and fluidity between media cultures even more so than the culture at large. Videomakers travel peripatetically, bringing back, leaving, and exchanging approaches to content and form. The videotapes here display many examples of connecting threads and the endpoints of their individualistic discoveries whether bouncing off each other or heading obliquely out on a tangent. None of these relationships are coincidental. We live on variations of the same turf yet we are divided. Developing a pan-regional discourse of 'new arab video' may be neither possible nor wished for. The failure of Pan-Arabism haunts us as does the fear of authoritative monoliths, all too menacingly present. Local discourses are possible and do exist, there is a connective tissue of sorts formed/forming, fragile, prone to external and internal pressures and subject to dissolution at any moment. These 'pockets' of intellectual and creative sustenance serve to generate a level of production surpassing most communities in depth and breadth that feeds off of each other and develops into sub-discourses, branches, or discrete entities still related in dynamic meaningful relationships such as the current scene in Beirut starting or recommencing in 1992 and the recent post-1987 Intifada production in and out of Palestine. If community is so difficult to establish and maintain, developing a constituency of viewers of these objects is an equally severe task, a precariousness that links this project to the videotapes presented.

A sense of interstitiality persists between places, cultures, events, influences, and ideologies. Occasionally the material taped is close to being a document of time spent - denoting a specific aspect of life, sometimes it is a dialogue or a series of intimate conversations at a close but unbreachable distance, or a direct telling, a speaking of things. If this is occasionally wholistic it is more often than not fragmented or dismembered, severed into fractions, sutured together by a conceptual underpinning, a nuts and bolts of logic developed for the moment or a dialectics of experience engaging a viscerality of substance.
How do you represent the unrepresentable, unrepresentable because the governing rhetoric that has been employed to describe the events, conditions, and the way we interpret them, is one that is familiar to our ears, a European one, an Israeli one, an unquestioned one - the point of view we recognize in the West as being our own.
These videomakers/tapes occupy at least two positions at once, documentor and inscriber, surveyor and subject. They build and rely on each position to literally or metaphorically fill in where the other can't. This inherent hybridity may appear seamless or could be exaggerated, the interconnectedness of both creates an integral space of a 'contextual objectivity' arrived at through the subjective responsibility to the issues and subjects affected. These videotapes are interpretive, they have a voice and they enunciate, they speak from specific histories to non-specific locations. The dialectical relationship of the speaker and those spoken to is highlighted, the speech laid bare and layered between the story, the fields of images, the suggested frames and the construction process. Look closely, there is a locating, a site-ing, taking place that is firmly rooted within a problematized field. This is not just to counter what passes for information or representation by others, but to produce work (in whatever guise it takes) that challenges our perceptions, and reclaims and reconstructs an agency that is complex and self-determining.

© Jayce Salloum 2001
in/tangible cartographies
new arab video


making history, making / tracing / leaving marks, a logic of the senses
Ammar Al Beik - Enahoum Kanoo Honna / They Were Here
Walid Ra'ad - The Dead Weight of a Quarrel Hangs
Elia Suleiman - Cyber Palestine
Hassan Khan - Set as 'Elah lil Lebnaneeyeen' / 'Six questions to the Lebanese'
Danielle Arbid - Seule Avec La Guerre / Alone with War

rounds, realities / fields of resistance
Rashid Masharawi - Makloubeh / Upside Down
Rashid Masharawi - Ghabbash / Out of Focus
Azza El-Hassan - News Time

sliding life through narrow spaces forced into (cracks) when rivers would flow not yet'
Annemarie Jacir - A Post Oslo History
Rashid Masharawi - Tawattor / Tension
Tawfik Abu Wael - Yawmeyat A'her / Diary of a Male Whore

days of our lives, transfer / transform / transgress, auto seen voyeurs
Azza Al Zarouni - Blue
Hassan Khan - Gerahat al Tagmil / Cosmetic Surgery
Mahmoud Hojeij - Bathth Waquih li Kammiyyat al Tahawoulat al Mushtahat Yawmiyan / Shameless transmission of Desired transformations per Day

sighting through, maps and demarcations
Sobhi al-Zobaidi - My Very Private Map
Sobhi al-Zobaidi - Looking Awry Hassan Khan - Kos om el film dah / Fuck this Film

resistance / oceans of streams
Mounir Fatmi - Arabesque
Akram Zaatari - Al-llka Al Hamra/Red Chewing Gum
Mounir Fatmi - Survival Signs
Mona Al Khamis - The Cleaner
Annemarie Jacir - Chronicle of Civilized and Consequential Moments of Reconciliation
Belkacem Hadjadj - Une Femme Taxi á Sidi Bel-Abbàs/A Woman Taxi Driver in Sidi Bel-Abbàs

looking out at the world looking in
Hassan Khan - 'el ain sabitny we rabb el arsh nagany' / 'the eye struck me and the lord of the throne saved me'
Nesrine Khodr - Red is the Colour of my Eye

letters from lebanon
Jamelie Hassan - Boutros Al Armenian / Mediterranean Modern
Mohamed Soueid - Tango Al-Amal / Tango of Yearning

alienation / recognition / inside light outside of your skin
Zineb Sedira - Don't do to her what you did to me
Brahim Bachiri - Bidoune Oun-Wane/Untitled
Mounir Fatmi - Les Autres C'est les Autres / The Others It's the Others

facing pictures / framing the visible
Sherif El-Azma - Dounia-Amar/Beautiful World
Hassan Khan - 'howah dah el film el siyasi' / 'this is THE political film'
Omar Amiralay - L'homme aux Semelles d'Or / The Man with the Golden Soles