The Disappeared: An exhibition by Tayseer Barakat

Main Statement

-    How do you make more than seven thousand people disappear?

       -  Bombard them with one airstrike after another like rain, then prevent rescuing them from underneath the rubble.

-    How do you make two and a half million people, disappear?

       -  Cut off communication, electricity, and water. Life.

In his exhibition “The Disappeared”, Tayseer Barakat creates a world that is built on loss in its broadest meaning; loss of life in its familiar intimacy, loss of the sense of time, loss of place, and above all, the loss of ourselves as humans. The characters in Barakat’s artworks, which are portrayed within three groups; “Astray”; “Shades”; and “A World in the Making”, live in a world that is constructed upon ruins: marginalised characters watching from afar at times, wandering around at other times. Their faces are without expression, their eyes cannot see, and their movements are without rhythm.

Barakat’s world is open to interpretations and multiple possibilities, a world we cannot accurately decipher; whether it is the world of the disappeared, or the world of the people who lost them, perhaps both. During a genocide, we all disappear.

Barakat builds a recurring and infinite moment of loss, in which senses are distorted, language fades, and the sense of time and place turns to stone. It is a moment that divides the worlds of life and death, survival and annihilation. Boundaries are barely visible - or may not necessarily exist.  Has destruction become a world in itself? Is it a parallel world, or is it real? Or is it all a delusion?

About Barakat- Biography:

I am all of us. I am a people yet to be born. I might have been born in September of the year 2170. I am sad, and I wish I did not exist in this present. I wish to be in a past or a different era. I will create group exhibitions on several planets. Including Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury. I am considering three individual shows on Mars, Pluto, and Planet Earth. I am nameless and formless. I have no value in this point in time. You might find me dead in a tunnel by the Egyptian borders or a street beggar in Nouakchott.  Or a garbage bin in Jabalia Camp, or a bag of cement in Abu Dis. Or a rose bud in the Pacific coasts. Or drowned by immigration and salt at the beginnings of the Dardanelle Strait. Or a bird chocking on crude oil on the beaches of the Arabian Gulf. I am your brother, I am nothing, I am a coincidence, I am a tunnel, I am a tank, I am a bag of flour, I am a destroyed house, I am a bleeding wound, I am a gas canister, I am a limping rooster, I am an ambulance, I am a wall waiting to be torn down, I am a tin can. I am a tree with a branch being cut every day so they can cook food for their children. I am a fractured pavement in Hashem’s Gaza. I may be corrupt, may be courageous, may be kind. Maybe Miserable, I am tired.

- Tayseer Barakat

(1) Astray

Where am I? Who am I?

A floating darkness.

The greenery of things is lost. Am I a man or a woman? Am I a child or an old man or an elder? Am I a bird?

The balance is lost.

What is the time? What month? Of what year?

Stacked darkness covered by rubble.

Am I dead? Am I alive?

I don’t want to die.

My colours are not as you see them, I never looked like I appear now,

I don’t know myself now.

(2) Shades

I soar above the city, roots soaring with me, I can see and can’t.

Every time I say I don’t want to die, I soar higher, and my memory returns gradually, and I remember who I am and where I’m from.

I shout: I don’t want to die. Is this Judgement Day?

I remember the smell of the bread my mother makes.

I’m tired.

I call out: Ahmad, Um Ali, where are you? But no sound escapes my voice.

Is this Judgement Day? I don’t want to die.

I see a ghost, a shade of a witness like me: I know you, I know you are of the displaced ones. How has this morning been? And the evening? Are you looking for a bite to eat?

(3) A World in the Making

Where am I? What is this darkness? I can’t see.

I hear dogs barking.

I know you, you are of the displaced ones, coming from the North.

Why don’t you talk? Are you mute or traumatised?

Is this white powder on your face the salt from the sea, or dust from the bombardment?

My colours have never been as they appear to you now. And my shape neither. I was as I was. Brown like wheat, and in distress coloured by the sun.

I don’t know myself now.

In the morning of the 19th of December, in a country home in Al-Qarara, I woke up to the sound of rumbling coming from the sky, and on the evening of the 13th of January I saw my mother’s dress in the rubble.

At night I cry for my mother. I am the only survivor. Those who died survived, and those who survived have died.

I remembered the UNRWA flour and milk. I cried to the cries of a child mothered by his sister, who made him dried milk from the rubble of destroyed houses.

I saw the bread vendor, and the geography teacher, and the doctor on duty in the hospital.

I saw the cobbler, the builder, the painter, the lawyer and the fisherman.

I saw the houses, the cafés, the streets, and the trees aligning the pavement.

I heard the sound of the mourning houses, the weddings, the graduation parties and the cries of the children in delivery rooms.

I saw the entire city, here, in a world in the making.

I am Walid, Salim, Hiba, Ahmad, Maryam, Nida’, Ashraf, Muhammad, Abeer… from Deir Al-Balah, Al-Qarara, Khan Yunis, Rafah, Al-Shati, Beit Lahia.