38 Days of Re-Collection


B&W white film negatives (generated from digital images) printed with b&w photo emulsion spread on color paint fragments collected from Jerusalem’s Old City house walls. The photographs were taken in an Occupied Palestinian house since 1948. 


Solo Exhibition | Berloni Gallery | London


From the Prolegomenon of Steve Sabella: Photography 1997 – 2014 | Kerber Verlag

Hubertus von Amelunxen

In 2009 Sabella rented a house in Ein Karim in Jerusalem, which a Palestinian family had abandoned, to secure themselves, when they heard about the Deir Yassin massacre in April 1948. He stayed in it for thirty-eight days, taking photographs of objects—utensils, walls, pictures—visually frisking the history of the place. Then, in his parental home and in other houses in the Old City of Jerusalem, he removed pieces of walls, little bits of painted plaster, or just of stained chalk. The color photographs were copied onto black-and white film, and the pieces of fresco, flayed bits of wall, were covered in an emulsion, and the negatives from the house he lived in projected and fixed on that emulsion. Because of the different colors of the carrier, the black-and-white images take on a mysterious, dreamlike presence that really belongs to no place and no time. They look ghostly; are the absence of presence and the presence of absence, and it is hard to decide which place or time they belong to.

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Fragments from our Beautiful Future | Kerber Verlag

Almút Sh. Bruckstein

Steve Sabella’s 38 Days of Re-Collection is comprised of black-and-white photographs imprinted upon colored shards of paint. Peeled from the walls of houses in the Old City of Jerusalem, including the house in which Sabella was born, the fragments present a unique archive of personal memory and displacement.

What appears to be findings from an archaeological dig are in essence pieces of filmic illusion: we see interiors, kitchen utensils, domestic galleries of family portraits, toys and other personal items from an Israeli household residing in an early-20th-century Arab house. The original owners escaped in 1948 with their belongings seized and their estate occupied by the State. Sabella‘s photographic fragments, shards of a mural, contain detailed patterns, shadows of floor tiles typical for the elaborate architecture of the “Arab house”—in doing so, the series claims the artist‘s own “law of return.”

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Robin Mann | Berloni Gallery | London

It is striking how much the work is reminiscent of a continent itself. Jagged edges of peeled paint define the end of the snapshot, cut off listlessly and creating its own border. Interweaving layers of varying faded oil tones and plaster applied to the Jerusalem city walls from which it is peeled, creating a lattice of colour, gradations of brown through green. We are nonetheless looking at a black-and-white image.


Trent Morse | Art+Auction

Through his art, Sabella grapples with life in exile, with its distorting and destructive consequences. His is an art of understanding; it is poetic and suppresses neither expulsion nor salvation.

Shifting Sands: Photography and Beyond

Malu Halasa | Beyond Palestine | CAP Kuwait

Some fragments show decorative Roman and Mediterranean motifs from tiled floors, or a blurred outline of an old fashioned Palestinian nuclear family. There are ghostly images of a traditional kitchen, the lone teakettle or clusterings of cutlery. All of the fragments attest to the lives lived, lost and forgotten within those spaces. This is a highly charged emotional work, which has at its essence time travel: exile and return, reconstruction of homeland and the past, but above all, the impermanence of the human condition.


With 38 Days of Re-Collection, we glimpse scenes of aesthetic plenitude, just beyond reach. Beyond reach because the images are flattened, obscured, fragmented, blurred and discolored. Their supports are irregular, each being singular, being ripped from walls, ripped from time, opening layers of the past. They are portals to the past, peeled-away strata, archaeological traces.

T.J. Demos | Kerber Verlag Beyond Finitude: Steve Sabella’s 38 Days of Re-Collection

In his incessant attempts to mend together pieces of a world that no longer exists, Sabella’s process of recollection subsequently emerged in the fragility of fragments of wall paint where the photographed past shatters like a mirror in one’s home. Here, a poetics of time unravels in the fleeting moment, photographed such that the fragment resembles a chip of pottery from an archeological site.

Kamal Boullata | Hatje Cantz Foreword | Steve Sabella Photography

Here the map becomes a signifier without a referent, a simulacrum of simulacra, a token of powerlessness and the arbitrary nature of maps. In a kind of premonition about the overpowering force of maps, the scraped fragment evokes both roots and routes… A rich intersectional past of Jerusalem, with its shared aesthetic of house and home by neighbors belonging to various religious and ethnic communities, is conjured up through Sabella’s fragments. Within a multi-chronotopic perspective, the series takes the viewer on an imaginary return to a disappeared time and place. But by actively joining fragments from different houses, the artwork remixes the old fragments into new neighboring aesthetic units. From the remains, new possibilities are composed. Perhaps only through such acts of vivid recollection of places/times, of “plurilog,” can a reimagined conviviality be pieced together anew.

Ella Shohat | Kerber Verlag an aesthetics oF dis/placement: steve saBella’s 38 days oF re-collection

Palestinian Tragedy Through the Eyes of the Artist

"In my work I engage in an archeology of the future, which is not necessarily based on finding physical objects, but is rather based on understanding images and their formation. This has been the human quest since the beginning of time. And yet what characterizes the world today is a lack of consciousness. We lost the ability to connect ourselves to our surroundings because we consume the world mostly from a safe distance, through its image. This has led us to incessantly question what is real and what is not. One thing is for sure, human suffering is real, unlike the illusions I create. My illusions are only meant to act as imagined bridges, map-like structures that connect us to our past with an eye to the future."

Interview by Evrim Altug | Cumhuriyet | Download

Moreover, focusing on the house’s contents rather than its outward facade suggests that we as viewers become privy to that which is usually kept from sight, is untold and unseen. Palestinian grief and loss haunts these occupied houses. Subtly Sabella unearths this. His strategy is a paradoxical one though, and in its own terms, one of displacement… Though this is a defiant gesture against erasure, it also shows the difficulty of Palestinian memory being preserved at the locus delicti. Sabella has to first transform these shards of wall into objects of the past and undo them from their current ontology as functioning walls. In fact, by peeling the plaster off the wall, he cuts short their timeline. No longer do they stand witness to history; now they have become history. It is a reversed archaeology of sorts.

Nat Muller | Collecting Notes to and for the Future | Fragments From Our Beautiful Future | Kerber Verlag

Brought into the light, they show an unexpected result. The newly created objects are like found pieces of a time that tells of the many-faceted past that exists in our present and yet cannot be pinned down to any specific era. “With those tile-like structure images, people think at first that these are found objects, almost archeological artifacts – Steve explains – but you and I know that they are an illusion.”

Karin Adrian von Roques | Archeology of the Future | Maretti Editore The International Center of Photography Scavi Scaligeri Museum | Verona

Sabella’s archaeological-seeming fragments, peeled from the Old City walls of his native Jerusalem with a surgeon‘s care and precision, reach deeper into layers of time and memory. He then awakens them, bringing them back to life through his photography. In the first moments of viewing them, one catches oneself wondering if they aren’t actually antique depictions. The onlooker falls silent at their vivid appeal, to then give way and sink into the fragments. Only the silence itself, one that allows a contemplative air to resonate and breathe, seems to do them justice.

Almút sh. Bruckstein | Fragments From Our Beautiful Future

Beatrice Benedetti | Maretti Editore

Steve’s trip, it could be said, was simply an expedition, with discoveries and restoration, the only difference being that the key value of the objects he found is not the rediscovery of a lost time, but rather the discovery of an original idea that is preserved for the days to come.

Archeology of the Future Exhibition Catalogue | Scavi Scaligeri | Verona

Sheyma Buali | Harper’s Bazaar Art Arabia

In 38 Days, Sabella does not simply construct images but creates relics from his own imagination based on a very personal perception of place. These abstract souvenirs evoke notions of home and alienation and the friction between perceived and physical distance.

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Charlotte Bank | Institute for Middle East Understanding

One might see 38 days of re-collection as the completion of a circle. Jerusalem, the city of Steve Sabella’s birth and upbringing, the city he sought to re-think in the early project Identity, this over-inscribed piece of land that seems to have haunted the artist for so long, now appears in the light of Sabella’s new image-research.

Coming to terms with his uprootedness and “growing roots in the air” as he himself says, has enabled the artist to return to his native city with an approach that is at once disinterested, almost scientific in the dissection of its visual elements, and at the same time highly personal in its concern with the small objects of everyday use. Through his investigation of the visual palimpsest that is the history of Jerusalem and the ever increasing layers of images created and imagined about the city, Steve Sabella has succeeded in asking one essential question. Is the relationship between image and reality relevant?

Re-constructing Dasein: The Works of Steve Sabella. Read more



House of Taswir | Kerber Verlag

FRAGMENTS FROM OUR BEAUTIFUL FUTURE | Bumiller Collection Museum | Berlin

„All existence is an imagination within an imagination... being a dream within a dream“ (Ibn Arabi)
Fragments From Our Beautiful Future. Contemporary Interventions in The Bumiller Collection #3presents the work of Jerusalem-born artist Steve Sabella (*1975) and Berlin artist Rebecca Raue (*1976) in a constellation with ancient chess pieces and Persian mirrors from the Bumiller Collection. With essays and poetic contributions by contemporary thinkers, art historians and curators, the publication creates a radical space of reflections on atomic time, cut-up and remix.

Find it on Kerber Verlag

Retrospective Exhibition


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Solo Exhibition | Berloni Gallery | London

Press Release


Solo Exhibition | Contemporary Art Platform | Kuwait


Première Biennale Des Photographes Du Monde Arabe Contemporain

Institue Du Monde Arab | Paris

Download the catalogue

Short film

In the Darkroom with Steve Sabella

"When you are in the darkroom, you don’t speak with anyone. The only thing you speak with is … art.”

click here for the making of 38 Days of Re-Collection 


Fragments from our Beautiful Future The Bumiller Collection | Berlin

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Wood shard collected from Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp on top offragmentswith photographs taken in a Palestinian house occupied by Israelis in 1948.

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