This installation incorporates the various formal and thematic elements characteristic of Mahmoud Kais’ work over the past few years. It contains pseudo-functional elements related to the concept of home, and the living room in particular – including an armchair, book cabinet, table, etc. – which are present as fragments of what used to be, or what could have been home.
The destruction of homes – and lives – so visibly played out during the recent war in Gaza is the point of departure of this installation. The ghastly architectonic configurations inflicted by the Israeli military might upon the homes of Palestinians in Gaza, whom it does not regard as non-combatants, let alone citizens – so that the loss of their homes is a foregone conclusion – are materialized here by recreating the void gaped when everything has been taken away and we are faced with the nothing, the place that used to be and is no longer. In this sense, the installation invites us to think of home and its surroundings, of the movement inwards and outwards, as the arena where it is exposed for all to see against its residents’ will, such that the without penetrates the within, violently emptying and defiling its intimacy.
Qays’ use of concrete – that raw, cold, crude and exposed material which conceals nothing, the material most identified with the brutalistic architecture adopted and nationalized by Israeli architects in the first decades after the Nakba – also alludes to the way it was used as a tool of destruction under the guise of acts of construction naturalized as a means to achieve the explicit goal of building the country over the ruins of Palestinian-Arab society, thereby facilitating the process of appropriation and Judaization of Palestinian-Arab space.
Transgression means overstepping one’s boundaries, invading a place not one’s own. In this sense, the exhibition challenges the state’s signifying practices, which have authorized it to house its Jewish inhabitants in Palestinian homes legally defined in 1948 as “abandoned”. During that fleeting moment of presence in the work’s specific display venue, it thus enables the viewer to imagine the potential destroyed and at the same time transgress the consensual acceptance of the current political situation as an immutable fact.
The exhibition was presented in a house on 3 Raziel Street in Jaffa as part of the Houses beyond the Hyphen project which took place in Jaffa-Yaffa between May 14 and 16, 2015.