Taysir Batniji, Winning Artist, Abraaj Group Art Prize 2012
To My Brother, Hand carvings from photographs on paper
In 1985 Taysir Batniji celebrated his brother’s wedding with his family in Gaza. Two years later the First Intifada (1987-1993) broke out, and Batniji’s brother was killed by an Israeli sniper on the 9th day of the uprising. How can personal loss be represented? Is it possible to render something absent tangible, and materialise a memory? How can we trace the porousness between the personal and the collective – especially in the case of Palestine – when speaking of memory and of things lost?
Batniji has etched a series of 60 inkless “drawings” on paper, based on family photos of his brother’s wedding. These “drawings” hark back to a happier time, one of joy and family gathering. ‘To My Brother’ is a fragile and poetic work which requires an intimate relationship with the viewer: stand too far away and the drawings appear as blank sheets of paper, stand closer and you will be able to trace the contours of the human shapes inhabiting these drawings, the artist’s memories, and the thin lines between an ephemeral presence and a permanent absence. Stand closer still and you will be able to discern that Batniji has left out certain details, and emphasised others.
As the title indicates, this series is a dedication to Batniji’s late brother Mayssara and a commemoration of his untimely death. However, this very personal history ties into a wider political context of strife in the Middle East, and shows how personal experiences ultimately, in some way or other, become part of a collective narrative.
Taysir Batniji, who lives between Paris and Gaza studied art at Al-Najah University in Nablus on the West Bank from 1985-92. In 1994 he was awarded a fellowship to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Bourges, France, where in 1997 he graduated with a DNSEP (Higher National Diploma in Plastic Expression). Since then he has divided his time between France and Palestine, developing an interdisciplinary practice including drawing, painting, installation and performance often closely related to his heritage.
Since 2001 Batniji has focused on photography and video. He has participated in numerous international exhibitions in Europe and beyond, in 2011: ‘Untitled (12th Istanbul Biennial)’, Istanbul, Turkey; ‘Future of a Promise’, collateral event of the 54th Venice Biennale, Italy; ‘Seeing is Believing’, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany and ‘Le monde n’est pas arrive’, Galerie Eric Dupont, Paris, France.
Previous exhibitions have included: ‘This is Not Cinema!’, Fresnoy, France (2002), ‘Contemporary Arab Representations’, the 50th Venice Biennale, Italy (2003), ‘Transit’, Witte de With, Rotterdam, The Netherlands (2004), ‘The World is a safer place’, Globe Gallery, Newcastle, UK (2005), ‘Wanderland’, Kunstmuseen, Krefeld, Germany (2006), ‘Heterotopias’, Thessaloniki Biennial, Greece and Sharjah Biennial, UAE (both 2007). During the 52nd Venice Biennale Batniji was part of ‘Palestine c/o Venice’ (2009) and the following year ‘La Biennale Cuvee’, Linz, Austria (2010). Taysir Batniji is represented by Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Hamburg/Beirut and Galerie Eric Dupont, Paris.