Abounaddara

Abounaddara, The Murderer Returning to the Scene of the Crime (2013), digital collage

Since the start of the Syrian uprising in spring 2011, the Abounaddara collective has been engaged in a war of images unfolding on several fronts. First of all, there is a battle against the Syrian regime: its state propaganda, the strategy of murdering peaceful demonstrators during the uprising, the bombs launched against the population during the civil war. There is also the relentless battle against the media coverage of the Syrian conflict, insofar as mainstream media render invisible the thousand-and-one faces of the “revolution” (Abounaddara continues to use this term to describe the situation in the country)—a revolution that is trapped in the grotesque outside perception that there are now only two protagonists confronting each other: the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad on one side, jihadist extremists on the other.

The people of Syria are thus denied their diversity, reduced to playing extras in television reports, victims without names or voices. Abounaddara also carries out a meticulous fight, not lacking in humor, in the field of representations of Syrians through history. Whether in the tales of the journeys to the East more than two hundred years ago related by Volney’s Voyage en Syrie et en Égypte (1787), or Assassinat de Kléber (1897) by the Lumière brothers, the first film in which we see a Syrian on screen, or the colonialist declarations of twentieth-century governors, the same portrait is sketched: an archaic, violent, and ignorant individual. In each of Abounaddara’s productions, the anonymous collective attempts to undo the stereotypes that cloud our gaze on Syria; it seeks to shift the coordinates through which we observe a war that attains levels of violence we no longer even suspect. It achieves this by making this violence palpable, but far removed from the voyeurism that exploits the suffering of women and men in front of the camera. Above all, the filmmakers of the collective represent the Syrian people with what the population has been demanding since March 2011, a modicum of dignity (karameh in Arabic): the dignity to have the right to rise up against oppression, the dignity to counter the mixture of indifference and compassion with which the Syrians are almost exclusively considered. Hence, the final battle that traverses all the others: the right to the image that respects the dignity of those who are currently struggling against all forms of tyranny. To, ultimately, show the Syrian revolution in all its diversity and its turbulent becoming.

—Dork Zabunyan

Posted in Public Exhibition
Excerpted from the documenta 14: Daybook
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