• بشار الحروب في معرضه «شاشة صامتة» .. حين تتلون الــمـأسـاة بالأمـل وتبـقى عيــون «الجثـاميـن» مفـتـوحـة !
  • بشار الحروب: «شاشة صامتة» في الحرب
  • بشار الحروب: هياكل بشرية في انتظار المجهول
  • Silent Screen by Jonathan Harris
  • بشار الحروب التقى الغرائبية في مخيّم الزعتري
  • بشار الحروب في «اللامكان» ..
  • Gold: Susanne Slavick
  • Nowhere: ByAndrew Ellis Johnson
  • Ghost in Residence: The Disappearances of Bashar Alhroub
  • The ghosts of Bashar Alhroub
  • "طبيعة العقل" لبشار الحروب .. معرض متعدد الوجوه وغير هائم على وجهه!
  • طبيعة العقل) .. معرض يصور فيه الفنان نفسه لايصال فكرته- رويترز
  • Nature of Mind Solo Exhibition, Bashar Alhroub
  • برنامج مبدعون- نلفزيون فلسطين٢٠١١
  • بين فن العرب وفن العالم! بشار الحروب مع الدكتور محمد قواص في برنامج علامات استفهام- ANP TV
  • Review of Points of Departure, ICA, London Aesthetica Magazine
  • بشار الحروب يستعد لـ«الطريق تأخذني وأنا أري- الحياة اللندنية
  • Movement Magazine "Un art Politique, art video ", Issue 69, May/June 2013, France
  • Alienation: a personal response
  • feature at 3 sat channel - Germany
  • Carte Blanche - Spatial Reflections - Charlotte Bank IKono TV
  • حصد الجائزة الأولى في بينالي الفن الاسيوي
  • فلسطين تحصد الجائزة الأولى في بينالي الفن الآسيوي بعمل "خارج الإطار" لبشار الحروب
  • Palestinian Grand Prize winning artist on his work
  • ‎بشّار الحروب... مصيدة الألم الفلسطيني/ جريدة الاخبار اللبنانية
  • ART CONTEMPOAIN, Territoire Libere, LaTribune&Moi, Venderdi 27 mai 2011
  • „Here & Now” - dziennik podróży, obieg 22.07.2011
  • "Reflective Consciousness" Exhibition Catalog
  • بشار الحروب فنان تشكيلي بمفردات بصرية عالمية وتقنيات متنوعة- هيام حسن ، القدس العربي،٢٠١٠
  • شرقيات بشّار!- نجوان درويش ٢٠٠٥
  • Exactly like the beginnings of color, Self’s Monologues … A view of Bashar Al-Hroub’s works
  • Reconsidering the Value of Palstinian Art & Its Journey Into the Art Market Part II
  • Longing to belong - By Jyoti Kalsi
  • بشار الحروب فنان اللغة البصرية :" اخلق عملية ربط بين اعمالي المتنوعة التي تشكل موزاييكا اسمه بشار "
  • Bashar Hroub, by Simon Morley
  • Bashar Alhroub makes observations.
  • Ghost in Residence: The Disappearances of Bashar Alhroub


    By Gordon Hon

    To paraphrase the opening line of the Communist Manifesto, there is a spectre haunting the work of Bashar Alhroub. However, unlike Marx, I cannot name this spectre and nor, perhaps can Bashar. I would like to take the opportunity of this exhibition to try to sketch the shifting outlines of this phantom – if indeed a phantom can have such a thing as an outline. There is a question that immediately comes to mind, is this ghost a version of the artist? This question arises from the recurring presence of the artist’s body throughout his oeuvre and summons yet another spectre – that of Derrida. For Derrida and his followers the work of art is always haunted, by its origin, by the absent hand of the artist or the lost object of the work - a kind of perpetual working through of perpetual mourning for an unnameable lost object. It almost amounts to a cult of loss that resonates not only with western modern inventions such as psychoanalysis but with Freud’s taste for the gothic and certain strands of German romanticism, a taste shared by Marx. However I find it difficult to look at versions of self-portraiture without thinking about Derrida’s Memoirs of the Blind and his positioning of the self-portrait at a ruined, haunted origin. For him the self portrait is necessarily a question of ontology or, rather, hauntology – his much used, punning neologism from his Spectres of Marx, published just a couple of years after Memoirs of the Blind.

     

    Bashar’s work is often a kind of self-portrait albeit approached from oblique angles. His body frequently plays a central part in his work, usually involving some form of performance but his intention is always to look for what is not visible in a self portrait. This was, of course, integral to Derrida’s exploration of the self-portrait in which blindness operates at the origin of the work both metaphorically and literally. The point at which the pencil touches the paper to produce the mark or ‘trait’ is quite literally in the dark. The work, which relies above all on sight in order to be made and to be seen, comes into being at a point of blindness. In the conventional self-portrait the perpetually displaced gaze between the artist, the reflection, the work and the viewer revolves around this permanently, necessarily inaccessible blind spot. In Bashar’s work he has often questioned the idea of the ‘self’ in the work and has said about some of his earlier work that it was a ‘self’ that he was in pursuit of. But for Bashar the self is, like the blind spot at the origin of the work, always inaccessible. To some extent this was a matter of identity, certainly in early work such as the Martyr Project (2007) in which he used a ‘blank’, featureless self-portrait as a martyr poster fly-posted around Ramallah, ideas of identity and identification where mainly what were at issue. However it is also a graphic, overtly political version of what has been a theme throughout much of his work, in which the sense of self or what constituted a self was a kind of faceless phantom. This can be seen in even earlier work such as Shadow (2005) and still haunts his work. The self that Bashar attempts to capture or represent is always allusive and when it appears is mostly faceless, often suggesting that if we look deep enough inside ourselves we will always draw a blank.

     

    The shadow selves reappear in his early video installation No Time No Place (2009) as a crowd of phantoms. He talks of this work in terms of disorientation in time and space, and it seems that these shadows exteriorise their own, inner emptiness. The work is strongly suggestive of depression and introduces the idea of purgatory which recurs in his work. The ‘shades’ of No Time No Place areaffectless approximations of humanity moving aimlessly in a non-place, inhabiting a perpetual, apparently hopeless, present. It is tempting to extract a political metaphor from this, that this is the non-time, non-place produced by the occupation and the sense of aimlessness produced by the constant waiting that permeates life in occupied Palestine. However Bashar insists that although these specific political elements are part of his work, as they are also a part of his life, that he is trying to say more and to look further than the immediate political circumstances and his own identity as a Palestinian. These phantoms with their uncertain ontological status could, almost by definition, be anywhere. Bashar wants us to see ourselves among them wherever we are. This is also an important aspect of this ‘blankness’ he presents us with, that the audience almost automatically puts themselves into the blank space, this was, for example, partly the point of the Martyr Project.

     

    Perhaps his most powerful work that directly addresses the occupation is Heavenly (2010) in which he simply points the camera to the sky as he walks through the Souk in Hebron. Everybody knows what has happened to Hebron, an important, vibrant Palestinian urban centre turned into a ghost town by violent, fundamentalist settlers under the protection of the Army and with the support of the Israeli state. What we see in the video is the debris thrown by the settlers and beyond that the heavens. Again we have the idea of purgatory, of a heaven perpetually deferred yet still visible. This heaven is, of course, also standing in for life without the occupation. Not so much heaven as simply a normal life in which you can stand in your street and look up at the sky without somebody throwing a brick at your face. The ingenious aspect of this work is in its simple structure in that the horizontal forward movement of the camera directed upwards is transformed into the vertical movement of the objects moving downwards through the frame. The debris rains down as the camera moves forward.

     

    In 2010 Bashar produced a series of video self-portraits that explicitly explored the idea of identity, The Other is Me, Beyond the Self and Aura. In all three he uses his body engaging with some form of threshold or liminal state. In The Other is Me he is literally playing with a threshold, stepping in and out of the shuttered doorway of a room in Barcelona. Although the video begins with him stepping outside and ends with him stepping inside for most of the piece he is just beyond the threshold, partly obliterated by the bright exterior light and the opening and closing shutters. Beyond the Self also uses the effect of over-exposure to give his body a precarious presence on the surface of the white screen. His body is visible merely as fragmented dark patches hovering in the white groundlessness of the projected image in which he is also engaged in the process of image making. Aura on the other hand gives us the clearly demarcated space of the image, a traditional frame suspended in the white frame of the projected image. Inside the picture frame the white blank surface reveals itself as a white membrane behind which Bashar pushes his face and hands out towards the viewer. In all of these films the spectral presence of the artist is trapped at the threshold of the image, between the visible and the invisible, and in which the ontological status of the image is merged with that of the ‘self’. For example in The Other is Me the window shutters being adjusted by Bashar that effect the exposure of the image as well as how much of him we can see are referring to the shutter of a camera. He is effectively exteriorising the internal mechanisms of photography, and the dark room in which we are left with the camera is also the ‘camera obscura’ of the photographic apparatus. The ‘me’ here is the ghost in the machine of the image.

     

    There is a melancholy in Bashar’s work. It seems to come primarily from the use of his own body to represent ontological uncertainty. It is a body constantly on the verge of disappearing, dissolving in light or trapped behind the surface of the image. The performances themselves are haunted, the movements like that of a sleepwalker or a possessed medium. They are sometimes reminiscent of the work of Bas Jan Ader whose ‘fall’ films of the early 1970s were a long way from Klein’s euphoric leap into the void and more of an exhausted collapse. In Broken Fall (organic) (1971), for example, he drops from a tree like rotten fruit or a dead leaf. However it is his Nightfall (1971) that mainly comes to mind when looking at Bashar’s work. In Nightfall, Bas Jan Ader struggles with a heavy stone in a dark garage illuminated by two light bulbs on the ground either side of him and on to which he laboriously drops the stone, leaving him eventually in complete darkness. The body disappears with the light and despite its evident physical reality in its struggle with gravity in the end it is as fragile as the light bulb and as ephemeral as the image. His disappearance at sea a few years later gave his short oeuvre an even more melancholy turn and his performances, which were already imbued with existential precariousness, became haunting messages, not from the grave, but from the purgatory of the permanently lost.

     

    Bashar’s series of images in Here and Now (2010) again feature an oddly melancholy performance of self-dissolution in which he wears a mirrored cube over his head. It is a simple and striking effect, ranging from the macabre to the comical, in some images he is lying down like a headless corpse in others he is standing with his head replaced by a reflected object such as a traffic light or statue. Although they are playful and refer slyly to minimal art they are also images of the artist again disappearing in the image he is engaged in producing. In a sense they are deliberately absurd versions of the self-portrait as a solipsistic short-circuit in which both the object and subject vanish in the apparatus of the image. Although he continues to use his own body in video works after this they are much less about his own identity and perhaps are no longer even forms of self-portraiture, or only very obliquely so. Both Purgatory (2011) and Attaba (Threshold) (2013) are much closer to what we might call ghost films. Purgatory features a figure in a white shroud shuffling in and out of a series of doorways off a deserted and desolate corridor. Bashar told me that the building is an abandoned Israeli prison but has deliberately not indicated this in the work so as not to overload it with specific political and geographic content, not to deny it but to leave the work open to broader interpretation. Despite its more overt narrative content it is still a figure appearing and disappearing in the light and dark of the image and is therefore still indicating that the site of the haunting is as much that of the image as the setting. The political content is incorporated into the form and questions of the ontology of the image rather than simply signalled by the content. This also applies to the dramatic form of the ghost story in which the dead return because of an injustice, from the ghost in Hamlet who demands revenge to the hungry ghosts of Fabrice Gobert’s television series Les Revenants (2013) who do not know why they have returned or what they want from the living who also seem haunted by guilt. A ghost is a revenant, by definition they return and it is the act of returning that contains a message.

     

    During his residency at Delfina in London Bashar was staying in a building awaiting renovation. It was in many respects a ready-made set for a ghost film and during his stay he producedAttaba as a response to the building as well as his role as a visiting artist. Again he appears in the film but this time as brief, barely visible apparitions caught on camera in ways reminiscent of ghost films. However, there is no story, no explanation, just the place and the figure that haunts it. The appearances and disappearances, as with the revenant, are all we have to go on. The threshold of the title is architectural but it is also the threshold between the visible and invisible, the point at which something appears or disappears and for Bashar this is also an existential question of the ‘self’, of the precariousness of identity. The strange status of the artist in residence is also what haunts this film. The constant displacement that has become a part of his life and that of many artists who travel from residency to residency, from project to project, is not only a precarious profession in practical terms but also psychologically and socially. If this is a self-portrait then it is as the artist as a kind of ghost in residence who, through that strange code of the spirit world in which doors open and close, lights go on and off and spectres appear and disappear he seems to be trying to tell us something.

     

     

    Gordon Hon 2013