By Lara Khaldi
Over the past four years, one can trace a recurring image in Harb’s work: a mattress. In I Can Imagine You Without Your Home (2012), a light-box reveals an image of what looks like a destroyed house. The photograph is taken from the perspective of someone peeking into a bedroom, the bed is in the background, the hallway is destroyed and in the corner is a light installation in the shape of a moon, but inside the image, not outside. The rest of the body of work shows mattresses and bedrooms with black ink clouding the photographs. Harb had shot these images of bedrooms in Gaza when he returned after the 2009 war. One is unaware of the location of the bedrooms – there aren’t any references to the city or the context. The juxtaposition in the light-box of a bedroom and excessive light through both the light emanating from the light-box and the fabricated moon creates a tension, especially among the photographs around it engulfed in black ink. They produce a suspended threat. The frailty of the mattress reminds one of the fragility of sleep, when one surrenders under the weight of a closing day to the safety of slumber. It is when one is most vulnerable and the mattress is witness to this vulnerability.
“I did not want to objectify nor exhibit the spaces of intimacy of the people whose homes I photographed, nor did I want this to be documentary-like,” explains Harb. Didn’t Godard once famously say that the Israelis always use fiction while Palestinians ended up with documentary? Harb perhaps belongs to a generation of Palestinian artists who challenge this and who understand that the media has subjected Palestinians to their narratives, while the Israelis have been able to knit their own historical chronicles. In addition to the light-box and the photographs, an installation of thin, rolled mattresses hang from the ceiling over the audiences’ heads in the exhibition. The mattress here changes from a susceptible object and becomes a looming threat – it could also connote the act of slumber when it comes to political positions.

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