From Rochester with Love. Conversations in the Midst of the Syrian Conflict
Herbert Read Gallery, UCA Canterbury
19 February – 18 March, 2016
Opening reception 18 February, 5-7pm
This exhibition functions as a counter-point to the mainstream media news about the on-going war in Syria by focusing on the intimate communications between the artist and her family back in Damascus. Hala Georges (Damascus, 1985) who arrived to the UK five years ago, has produced a series of films, animations, audio pieces, and an installation inspired by the testimonies and long-distance conversations with her friends and relatives. The presentation of these materials in the gallery creates a space of encounter with the hidden stories of those anonymous citizens affected by the conflict.
Hala Georges’ practice is based on the personal and the domestic. The stories she presents are told by way of monologues, testimonies, and informal interviews with a small circle of participants. The participants conform a group consisting of the artist’s mother, sisters, nephews, nieces and a few friends; people, who have lived or are living with the conflict day-to-day. As well, Georges’ experiences as a Syrian living outside the conflict, her long-distance relationship with the participants, and her trips to the country during this time of war, are all considered inspiring materials.
Georges’ work rejects to be another Middle Eastern art cliché. It enjoys qualities of hybrid documentary style and accepts the challenge of achieving a balance between creativity and transparency, while responding to a dramatic human experience. Other sources of inspiration for her work are the numerous recording of the Syrian crisis made through new technologies and shared online, as well as examples from Syrian and Middle Eastern contemporary art on the subject of war and home.
Collecting material from Syria whilst being in the UK depended on weak and disrupted internet connection and phone calls. These difficult circumstances led to produce irregular and fragmented results; their varied condition evidences the problems and realities of communication in the midst of the conflict. As such, Georges’ project tries to embody a truthfulness that media representations distort when trying to give a complete picture through gross simplification.
In Georges’ words: “The Syrian war started in March 2011 and since then my dream of returning home has slowly faded. The project is a piece of my heart made real by means of practice and it is the way for me to be part of my family’s and country’s grief. I dedicate this exhibition to the memory of my late father Morris Georges.”
Curated by Emma Brasó.