“I dedicate this publication to my mother (1933-2017), and to the fifty-two members of my immediate family killed by Israeli bombs in November 2023: my sister Hanan (1963-2023), her husband Abd Elrahim (1957-2023), their children and grandchildren, my cousin Mansoura (1949-2023), my cousin Bakr (1962-2023) and all those who took refuge in our family home in the Al-Shijaya neighbourhood. Finally, to my brother Fayez (1951-2023), who died in Gaza a few days after my sister, due to lack of medical care.” So begins Palestinian artist, Taysir Batniji’s latest publication in support of the Palestinians suffering under the genocidal violence of the Israeli state, Disruptions (Loose Joints).
Inherently a translatory praxis for the depiction of varying humanities and realities, the prophetic power of photography, and art more generally, is most acute at times of devastation. Such is most poignantly true of Batniji’s collection of Disruptions. Binding together the pixelated screenshots of video calls between him in Europe and his family in Gaza from 2015-2017, Batniji’s book is an evocation of the physical and emotional separation across borders of conflict, rendered more tragic by its reduction to memory.
Taysir Batniji (b.1966 in Gaza, Palestine) was trained as a painter at An-Najah National University, Nablus, before continuing his studies in France. His multimedia work incorporates photography, video, drawing, installation and performance, and has been shown widely in Europe and the Middle East, including at the Venice Biennale; Jeu de Paume, Paris; Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin; Kunsthalle Wien, Witte de With, Rotterdam; Rencontres d’Arles; MAC VAL, Paris; and his most recent solo exhibition at the Mathaf in Doha.
Batniji’s work is often infused with visions of impermanence and fragility invoked by his personal history, and the historical and contemporary conflicts inflicted upon his homeland of Gaza. Pixelated by the Israeli state’s control of communication in Gaza, the screenshots in Disruptions invoke the fragility of Batniji’s sustained connection to his family. This connection is rendered fragile not just by poor network connection, geographical distance and militarised borders, but also by an ever-heightened threat of death. The video call, then, comes to manifest a clandestine space for cross-border human connection amongst a stateless population whose humanity has been denied.
It becomes a space, however fragmented and unstable, for self-determination in the form of familial love. Though the pixels may only align briefly, when they do it becomes a space to glimpse a mother’s smile or a brilliantly blue sky beyond the smoke haze. While the calls may be disrupted by genocidal violence, they are themselves Disruptions within that entrapment, functioning as pixelations of subliminal resistance through human connection.
The title of the essay which concludes the book, What remains and what persists, written by Taous R. Dahmani, perfectly captures this doubled disruption. What remains are the ruins of buildings, empty bullets, military surveillance, soldiers and tanks. Yet what persists is an enduring humanity. It is humanity in love and in grief, which is also in love. While Batniji’s 2019 exhibition of these photographs, originally entitled Lignes de vie – Une exposition de legends, is somewhat more hopeful in its glimmering documentation of love, their 2024 publication within Disruptions is understandably overwhelmed with grief.
Interspersed amongst blankly grey and green pages, the screenshots gain an even more acute pathos within this new context. Eight years on, what remains is a new blankness – an emptiness that succeeds eight more years of civilian death. But still, memory persists. It persists more tangible now, in book form, than it ever was. And because of memory, the legitimate fight for Palestinian freedom persists in solidarity. In solidarity, that is, with those who died and those who still suffer in Palestine.
Disruptions is designed and published by Loose Joints, an independent publishing house dedicated to the elevation of underrepresented voices in photographic discourse. All funds raised by the book will be donated to the NGO Medical Aid for Palestine, providing crucial medical care and support on the ground. Disruptions is available for pre order via Loose Joints alongside a fundraising print edition https://loosejoints.biz/products/taysir-batniji-disruptions-print-edition signed by the artist and featuring two pigment prints of The Sky Over Gaza, 2001-2004. Both editions will be published and shipped in late January 2024.