Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) opens Ahlam Shibli Phantom Home

Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) presents Ahlam Shibli Phantom Home, on view 25 January–28 April 2013. Exhibition organised and produced by the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA); Jeu de Paume, Paris; and Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, Porto. Curated by Carles Guerra, Marta Gili, João Fernandes and Isabel Braga.

Ahlam Shibli, Untitled (Death, no. 32), 2012. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Phantom Home is a retrospective exhibition including nine photographic series produced by Ahlam Shibli (b. 1970, Palestine) during the last decade. Through a documentary aesthetic, the photographic work of Ahlam Shibli addresses the contradictory implications of the notion of home. The work deals with the loss of home and the fight against that loss, but also with restrictions and limitations that the idea of home imposes on the individuals and groups marked by repressive identity politics. Examples of places where the problematic is encountered include the occupied Palestinian areas; monuments that commemorate members of the French Resistance against the Nazis together with French fighters in the colonial wars against peoples who demanded their own independence; the bodies of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transsexuals from Oriental societies; and the communities of children in Polish orphanages. Death, Shibli’s latest photographic series, has been especially conceived for this retrospective. It shows the efforts of Palestinian society to preserve the presence of those who lost their lives fighting against the occupation.

Phantom Home encapsulates Shibli’s investigation into three different ways of understanding the word “home.” The first group of works brings together the series Eastern LGBT (2004/2006) and Dom Dziecka. The house starves when you are away (2008). While the body is considered the primary home for human beings, it also appears as the first target of identity politics. A second group includes more recent works: Trackers (2005), Trauma (2008–09) and Death (2011–12). The sequence of these series describes a colonial conflict not limited to the Palestinian land. The third group of works includes photographic series that denounce the process of land dispossession to which the Palestinians are subjected. Goter (2002–03), Arab al-Sbaih (2007) and The Valley (2007–08) are a complex testimony to quasi-humanity that also involves a critical self-reflection of the photographic procedure.

Shibli’s pictures often show the people as blurred silhouettes or with their faces covered. Hence her photography avoids the historical obsession of the medium with achieving evidence at all costs. Her photographs refuse to explain the conflict, but rather look at it in order to fight preconceptions.

Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)
Plaça dels Àngels, 1
08001 Barcelona

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