The construction of memory, photographic objects, and a very broad understanding of the notions of collectionism and archive have been at the core of Akram Zaatari’s (Sidon, Lebanon, 1966) artistic practice since 1995. In 1997, Zaatari co-founded the Arab Image Foundation (AIF) partly to contain this activity of collecting, but also to organise it within an institutional framework and give it form through an expanding collection, which itself is a result of multiple modes of acquisition.
Less of a repository of documents, the strength and originality of the AIF lies in the critical intersection of two archival practices, institutional and artistic. Over the past twenty years, the AIF was the medium through which many of Zaatari’s projects and interests were developed. Akram Zaatari is part of a generation of Lebanese artists who, in recent decades, have focused their attention on armed conflicts and post-war life in this Middle Eastern country.
In FONS ÀUDIO #48, Akram Zaatari contextualises his work 'Nature morte', which is part of the MACBA Collection. This film was produced for the 2008 exhibition 'Les Inquiets – 5 artistes sous la pression de la guerre' at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, which explored the war in the Middle East and its representations. The video shows two men seated in a drab, white-walled room. The older one, with a weathered face, is preparing explosives, while the younger one mends a jacket. The two men go about their business at the same time, without speaking.
The only sound that can be heard is the call to prayer from a nearby mosque, the noises the men make as they work, and the hiss of a gas lamp. When they have finished their tasks, the older man leaves the house carrying a rifle on his back, a rucksack, his lunch in a plastic bag, and the mended jacket. The camera shows him receding into the distance at daybreak. The young man is played by the actor Ghayth el Amine. The older one is Mohammad Abu Hammane, a former Lebanese resistance fighter who had already worked with Zaatari in his 1997 video 'All is Well on the Border'.
His participation in this new work brings to mind the resistance years: an old man checks his fighting equipment. The lack of dialogue emphasises the distance between two generations that approach war in different ways. The scene was filmed in the village of Hubbariyeh in the region of Aarqub in southern Lebanon, a mountainous area at the intersection of Lebanon, Syria and Israel that has been the object of political dispute for almost a century. The village is located a stone’s throw from Shebaa farms, which have been occupied by Israel since 1967 and are a centre for the Fedayeen Palestinean resistance fighters.