Jananne Al-Ani, Winning Artist, Abraaj Group Art Prize 2011
Shadow Sites II, Single channel digital video
Shadow Sites II is a film that takes the form of an aerial journey. It is made up of images of a landscape bearing traces of natural and man-made activity as well as ancient and contemporary structures. Seen from above, the landscape appears abstracted, its buildings flattened and its inhabitants invisible to the human eye. Only when the sun is at its lowest do the features on the ground, the archaeological sites and settlements come to light. Such ‘shadow sites’ when seen from the air, map the latent images held by the landscape’s surface. Much like a photographic plate, the landscape itself holds the potential to be exposed, thereby revealing the memory of its past. Historically, representations of the Middle Eastern landscape, from William Holman Hunt’s 1854 painting The Scapegoat to media images from the 1991 Desert Storm campaign have depicted the region as uninhabited and without sign of civilization. In response to the military’s use of digital technology and satellite navigation, Al-Ani produces a film that recreates the aerial vantage point of such missions while taking an altogether different viewpoint of the land it surveys. The film burrows into the landscape as one image slowly dissolves into another, like a mineshaft tunneling deep into a substrate of memories preserved over time.
Working with photography, film and video, Jananne Al-Ani has a longstanding interest in the power of testimony and the documentary tradition, be it through intimate recollections of absence and loss or the exploration of more official accounts of historic events. Solo exhibitions of her work have been held at Darat al Funun, Amman (2010); Art Now, Tate Britain (2005); and the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC (1999). Recent group exhibitions include Closer, Beirut Art Center (2009); The Screen-Eye or the New Image: 100 videos to rethink the world, Casino Luxembourg (2007) and Without Boundary: Seventeen Ways of Looking, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2006). Al-Ani has also co-curated touring exhibitions including Veil (2003 – 4) and Fair Play (2001 – 2).
Her work can be found in public collections, among them the Victoria & Albert Museum and Tate, London; the Pompidou Centre, Paris; the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC and Darat al Funun, Amman. Al-Ani’s photographic work is represented by Rose Issa Projects, London.