Ghaith Abi Ghanem and Jad Melki
Sunoj D
Daniele Genadry
Hussein Nassereddine
Stéphanie Saadé
Yara Saqfalhait
Isa Toledo

16 August, 2017

Commissioned for Fotopub Festival, 2017 an annual festival of photography in Novo Mesto, Slovenia. Kindling was exhibited in an unused extension of the municipal library of Novo Mesto.

Curated by Rachel Dedman

Made up of seven new commissions by artists, architects and researchers from Lebanon, Palestine, India and Brazil, Kindling expanded established notions of image-making, bringing together work by those whose practices do not usually deal with the photograph as photograph.  

What processes of translation occur when the concerns of an artistic practice, usually channelled in particular material directions, are asked to reckon with the aesthetics, histories and cultural weight of another medium? What if the photograph was not a final form, but an initial catalyst for work?

The works in Kindling deal with photography’s contradictions: as a medium simultaneously physical and immaterial; able to provoke memory, yet incapable of adequately summoning lived experience; representing both extended temporality, and ubiquitous immediacy. Stretching the possibilities of making images without and beyond the camera, the projects address the political agency of photography as loaded historical gesture, mechanical tool and personal totem.

Each participant was invited to consider the exhibition an opportunity to reorient or reflect critically upon their current work and ongoing practice – be it painting, academic research, performance or architecture – through the lens of photography’s aesthetics, mechanics, economics, histories or politics. The exhibition renders the image the ultimate subject at stake in the show, and calls for an expanded approach to its place and potential in creative practice.

Daniele Genadry, The Slip (Missing Real), prints on architectural paper, 2017

The Slip (Missing Real) begins with a series of snapshots of a mountain range in Lebanon, from a site the artist knows well and has photographed countless times. Among the images of familiar views, one stands out, unrecognisable. It prompts a return to re-photograph it in an attempt to see the missing place. The repetitive images are literal documents of a familiar space, yet fail in their persistent disconnection from memory, their inability to conjure lived experience. Throughout her practice Genadry uses the processes of photography and painting as a means of reconstituting the auratic, mnemonic potential of places through the intersection of images. Composed of translucent layers of images minutely different from one another, this work counters the reductive abstraction of photography, and rethinks the relationship between an image and its referent in the real.
Daniele Genadry, The Slip (Missing Real), prints on architectural paper, 2017

Isabella Toledo, Phoetical Correctpub, 3-channel video, 2017
Toledo has for years recorded menu descriptions, shop signs, book subtitles, misspelled headlines, poor puns and bad translations using her phone, building an archive of tens of thousands of images. Testing Rudolf Arnheim’s assertion that ‘the increasing detachment of modern language from the perceptual appearance of things poses a problem for the poet,’ Toledo extracts vocabulary amassed from the texts she comes into contact with, abstracting it into a poetry of puns and wordplay in her own hand. Though primarily a painter, in this work rapid phone photography playfully constitutes a vernacular of its own: simultaneously the world and its description, signifier and signified, given visibility by the digital surface once more.

Ghaith Abi Ghanem and Jad Melki, Print Imprint Press Impress, cast plaster, fabric, foam, metal, ink, wood, paper, latex, 2017
Architectural studio Ghaith&Jad have taken as their starting point the photograph as a reductive abstraction of matter, a flattening of real space into surface. Their intervention for Kindling explores the reverse, using the weight and heft of an architectural cast as a vessel for the making of prints in other materials. Ink poured through its apertures, rust gathered on its surface, water dried around its bulk, latex folded around its exterior – these interventions record the object’s negative space and mark its relationship to material, the result of a fleeting moment or protracted time. Reversing standard architectural processes, the model here precedes its drawings – rendered not as mimetic representation, but by virtue of the elemental meeting of surfaces. Their gesture is as much an abstraction as the photographic, but one that departs from presence and physicality, as opposed to reduction into flatness.

Sunoj D, 4820 grams: Past, Present and Future, stone and C-type print, 2017
Over millennia, powder coalesces into stone, and stone returns to dust – constantly, imperceptibly changing. The dust here constitutes both the before and after of the stone itself, its past and possible future. The work disrupts the linear thrust of chronology, positing time as geography, as an act of erosion, as a moving element in rock, despite its apparent permanence. A stone can be a totem, landmark, component in a structure; ground and chiselled and grouted together. Sunoj D’s work questions the appearance of stability and singularity in natural material, drawing attention to the extended temporality of matter. At the same time, the work playfully challenges the authority of the photograph. Despite being the same weight, and of the same material, the stone cannot simultaneously be both dust and whole. The photograph’s implicit claim to mimetic truth, and ability to hold time still, is thus unsettled.

Stéphanie Saadé, Sleeping Under the Shadow of an Unknown Tree, printed photographs, brought objects, 2017

Landscapes lie flat on the floor, like carpets, their spaces snapped in travel. Each image is divided into abstracted maps, for taking. The viewer is invited to seek in the local landscape materials that match the images, and to place these items onto the original. Stones, pebbles, herbs, water, soil and sand build up the images, which re-acquire verticality – growing throughout the course of the exhibition – and leave their mark on the photographic surface. This might be thought a ‘making real’ of the image, a cumulative exercise in which the local environment mingles with the biography of the artist. At the same time, this process slowly obliterates the original, which ends up concealed by physical pseudo-simulacra drawn from Novo Mesto. Challenging the passivity and singular authorship of the image, Saadé’s work explores the photograph as an interstice between two places: between the real and remembered, the image surface and material trace.

Hussein Nassereddine, Grass Grows In The Mouth When You Talk About It, sound installation, 2017

How to make an image without image? This sound installation explores the possibilities inherent in images built verbally: formed in the mind by language, unlimited by periphery, materiality or stillness. Departing from the practices of Abbasid and Umayyad poets, sent to ancient ruins to record their architecture and spatial significance in words, Nassereddine plays with the tropes of Arabic poetry composition. Grass Grows In The Mouth When You Talk About It imagines the artist’s natal village in south Lebanon. Locked in a cycle of destruction and rebuilding, it is a place marked materially by the regional political upheaval of the last century. This rhythm has muddied memories – generations of village architecture are preserved only in testimony, channelled through the voice of the artist. In an age of ubiquitous photography, poetry reminds us of the slippery, ambiguous nature of memory; the work argues for the precise and expressive potential of the invisible image.

Yara Saqfalhait, Imaging the Underground: Notes on Mediation, image and text on paper, mixed media, 2017
This work collates Saqfalhait’s research into subterranean image-making: the process of using mechanical methods, such as ground-penetrating radar, to ‘see’ spaces underground. The resolution of radar-made images are dependent upon the density of the materials through which its waves penetrate – meaning physical material determines the quality of the visualisations produced. Interested in the implications of objectivity in automated image-making (and algorithmic image-interpretation), versus the apparent subjectivity of traditional photography, Saqfalhait ties these to the politicised space of the Jordan Valley in Palestine. Sinkholes and underground craters have been appearing rapidly around the Dead Sea due to Israel’s aggressive mineral extraction – just one aspect of their ongoing infrastructural violence against Palestinian land. The work draws attention to the ways in which mechanical image-making technologies have the potential to structure political realities and reinforce power.
Yara Saqfalhait, Imaging the Underground: Notes on Mediation, image and text on paper, mixed media, 2017

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