For the next several posts, we will be running profiles of past projects by artists featured in the Palestine c/o Venice Pavilion. – ed.
Jawad al Malhi’s contribution to the 2009 Palestine c/o Venice Pavilion is hard to miss: a panoramic photograph, House #197, printed at monumental scale (pictured above). The image depicts the Shufhat Refugee camp in Jerusalem as seen from the neighbouring Israeli settlement. The image seems flattened as if taken with a telephoto lens; focal length emphasizes the distance between observer and observed.
Malhi was born in Shufhat Refugee camp, and his work in painting, sculpture, video and photography explores the camp; alternating between the street-level view and sweeping panoramas. The artist’s location with respect to his subject – inside or outside; standing apart or close in – is important. Another, The Gas Station, exemplifies this.
Al Malhi mentioned this work in his artists statement on the Palestine c/o Venice website:
I positioned myself as an observer to record the inhabitants of the camp … Positioning the camera in different locations of observation, I documented how time unfolds and elapses by day and night for the workers of a gas station, which is situated on the margins of the camp. . . The observations reveal their relationships, their interaction with the street, their power relations and control over the geography of the container, and their isolation by day and night. Time shows itself to be monotonous, mundane, and endless in the confines of the camp . . . This is most evident in the fact that this gas station no longer exists; it was burned down by members of the camp, after its owners refused to relocate the container.
Al Malhi’s work moves fluidly between the micro scale of human, social life and the macro scale of the city or camp as a whole. As he does so, his work reveals how the built environment of Shufhat Refugee camp – ad hoc, fragmentary, and constantly in flux – reflects the changing social and power relations within it.
Posted by Michael Connor