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Steve sabella’s “In Exile” and “Metamorphosis”: From Alienation to Transformation



Several dualities and tensions run through the work of Berlin-based Palestinian artist Steve Sabella (born 1975) – most prominently, the universal and the particular, the past and the future. In a way, his photographic projects are accessible to one and all, they seem free of direct references to a specific culture or creed and reflect the identity of a global citizen. On the other hand, they remain rooted, albeit symbolically, in the experience of growing up in a divided city. Jerusalem, for Steve, is more than a physical place. It is a psychological state that has remained within him as he has travelled the globe. The concreteness of barbed wires, walls of separation, demolition lands became intangible and invaded his mind. Steve brings his internal Jerusalem to life brilliantly in two of his projects: “In Exile” (2008) and “Metamorphosis” (2012). The first is a visualisation of what he has been through, the second what he is in the process of becoming.
The images under “In Exile” show multiplication and monotony – of windows and doors. They speak of alienation, fragmentation, suffocation, a scattered life. There is no centre here, no pathways or exits or signs of guidance. This series could be said to represent the life of the artist in both the Jerusalem of geography and the Jerusalem of the psyche – the latter is in no way easier to bear or less real than the former. In “Metamorphosis”, there is some progress. Existence is no longer all that disorienting. The collages openly face and depict the barbed wires and the walls of separation and the demolition lands stored in memory but now new patterns are emerging. Barriers and blockages are shifting and dissolving. Perhaps wounds are being stitched, and healed.

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