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The Aesthetics of Apartheid in Palestine | Andrew Ryder | Warscapes


Many of the photographs that appear in Keep Your Eye on the Wall are quite striking and present starkly alluring textures and images, particularly those captured by Steve Sabella and Taysir Batniji. However, while Batniji’s photos of Gaza walls, marked with eroded posters of martyrs, are haunted by the human architecture of resistance, Sabella’s seem to erase the presence of human life in favor of geometrical and structural compositions. Indeed, Sabella writes, “During my visit to Jerusalem in 2012, I had the impression that a sense of surrender pervaded the lives of Palestinians. They seemed to perceive life under occupation as normal.” While the occupation of Jerusalem has certainly become normalized over the near half-century since it began, I found myself reacting against his claim of Palestinian resignation. Perhaps for Sabella, who is Palestinian himself, the wall has become something that can be contemplated, a part of the history of his people that now simply exists, and perhaps by presenting it in painterly, dispassionate images it loses a certain power. While I found many of the photos in this book upsetting, I think that a traditionally aesthetic standpoint toward the wall, a disinterested interest, is particularly horrifying because it occludes something that was always obvious to me every time I looked at the wall, which was its manifest injustice.


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