Time-out, 1992-1994

Témoigner, Mathias Flügge (german)
Le sommeil de la raison, Joseph Tarrab (german)
Victims in the Shadow of Account – A Story Behind the Pictures of Salah Saouli, Harald Friecke
Nur ein Hauch von Verlust, Katrin Bettina Müller
The Way We’ve Always Done Before, Michael Wollenheit
Energetic Depots – On the New Works of Salah Saouli, Stefan Rasche (german)
Some say that writing poetry is impossible after Auschwitz, Wilhelm Gauger
Wir wollen wieder gesehen werden und euch sehen können, Wilhelm Gauger
Le mot secret, Abbas Beydoun
Obsession by Salah Saouli,
Heleen Buijs
Supperpositions, Reiner Höynck (german)
Das Labyrinth, Stefan Rasche

Harald Fricke

“Victims in the Shadow of Account – A Story Behind the Pictures of Salah Saouli“

If according to Hegel the original history of man is a series of wars, what always disappears in every account of this history is any memory of life. This is replaced with monuments, most often with symbols of the victims (and the perpetrators). All that has occurred must be admonishingly fixedwithouttemporalconstraint,becauseitcannotbemadeundone.But this renders commemoration inaccessible: The image of the past is made to objectify its source, to withstand change. What remains are abstractions. Together, the pieces construct a huge museum, that may confirmtheprogressionofhistory,butwhichdistancesitselffurtherandfurther from experience. The mass media conveys nothing different when it historicizes reality one-to-one. Perhaps this is the only way to make the news from Rwanda, the horrificimagesfrom former Yugoslavia, or recordings from the Golf War bearable to watch – on television, in real time.Even the cameras appear to be conscious of the remote control in the hand of the other. Salah Saouli’s work aims itself doubly against forgetting. He works with images of people who have been recorded as missing since the civil war in Lebanon. His materials are documents collected in Lebanon without the knowledge of the government by a grassroots initiative in 1992-93. Twelve years later, their relatives still do not want to give up hope in recovering at least a few of the in total 3,000 missing. No one knows what happened to them. Those left behind hope that they are still alive, since their death was never officiallyconfirmed.Theabsenceofthepeople, whose only remains are their passport photos, leads to the no-man’s-land between war and peace, between history and life. Both lie fallow. Undead Dead, dead Undead – words capture the uncertainty as inadequately as the plethora of tiny portraits bears witness to their former existence and simultaneously serves as a foothold in the present. In this suspension, like a rope stretched over the abyss of an unreconciled memory, it is exactly these pictures that are witnesses of a history on the edge of life and death – exactly that place where the mass media does not venture. For the picture of the missed is timeless. But how to redeem the hope that weights such images? Saouli enlarged the individual passport photos, retouched them and arranged them in light boxes. Every person is thus pulled from the kind of administrative system that in part appears as collective memory in the archival work of Christian Boltanski. But for Saouli, there is no symbolic death. Every picture is, on the contrary, an icon inseparable from the context of the living, a testament to the fact that the individual is not just a metaphor for the general inhumanity of war. Even without knowing their destiny, their photos imprint themselves on the mind. The brooding expression in the face of a family father with thick moustache, the shy smile of the young girl, the tired eyes of a pale man in his thirties, or the utter sadness in the eyes of a young man barely in his twenties. They are all not the imaginary of destruction through the violence of politics against the individual – but rather its face. They are more terrible then any generalization, returning the gaze of the observer. It is with nuances that Salah Saouli breaks the systematic and along with it the possibility of forgetting. He unsettles the order of reality, where victims have been reduced to constituents in a closed history, by modifying and marking their depiction in claire-obscure – just a gray tone away from the original documents. While uniform steel frames create an impression of conceptual serialism, the artistic material leads directly back to the subject. The aging process produced on some of the silk-screened panels was created with a special varnish; the boxes of gold leaf emphasize above all their artificiality.Otherfloorobjectsdocumenta cognitivegame,in which form and object multiply together. “I look in, as if into a wonder box, in which nothing wonderful happens after all,” says Saouli. Material and expression blur together, and the eye jumps in expectation between depiction and depicted. In this artistic treatment of the medium, the graphic material used does not generate the reality on display, but is an integral part of it. The use of photocopied portraits also makes sense in a real context. In Lebanon, “photocopy” means “tasswir-wassaik,” or “paper document.” The artistic re-definitionofthematerialdoesnotresult in a different meaning; what has changed, however, is its designation. The works of Salah Saouli indicate how recollection can arise from the forgetting of pictures – despite the platitudes attached to them by the mass media – because their content remains untouched. Whether the people in his pictures are really dead, no one knows. But one does see that they could still live.“Time out” Catalog,

Salah Saouli 1996 from German by Alisa Kotmair

© salah saouli