press release

Akram Zaatari. The Third Window
30.08.2018 - 05.01.2019
Opening on Thursday 30.08.2018 19:00 - 21:00

We are happy to invite you to the third solo show of celebrated Lebanese artist AKRAM ZAATARI at our Beirut space, opening on August 30, 2018. After Earth of Endless Secrets (2009) and This Day @ Ten (2013), Sfeir-Semler Gallery presents The Third Window, which capitalizes to a large extent on Zaatari’s study of photographs and their histories, mainly in the framework of his involvement with the Arab Image Foundation.

The Third Window is a term that Zaatari borrows from Paul Virilio, who uses it in reference to television broadcast, a frame that allows a glimpse into a parallel life, referring to screens that can transport the viewer across space and time. But in the context of this exhibition, Zaatari uses the term to designate the different transactions that reproduce photographic records and that leave traces on the bodies of photographs, which Zaatari tries to understand as part of their genealogies.

Zaatari takes photographs of photographs and narrates them in diverse ways. Sometimes they are organized into films, like On Photography Dispossession and Times of Struggle, 2017, commenting on their histories, focusing on how fragile they become at times of war. Sometimes they are reorganized in the gallery space highlighting specific details in them, disregarding the main subjects in pictures, the main purpose(s) of taking the picture(s), to reveal something else that would have otherwise stayed invisible. In original photographs he looks for accidents, records of unintended happenings, like the shadow of the photographer falling in the scene in the series A Photographer’s Shadow, 2017, or like a disintegrating image in Archeology, 2017. He makes of these the center of his work.

Since the late nineties, Zaatari based an entire body of work on collecting and studying photographs; he’s explored how they are made, who they serve and how they circulate. He has examined the photograph as a site for diffusing fashion, culture, codes of behavior and sometimes values. This exhibition marks a move to another level while studying photographs. Zaatari looks at something else that was not intended in a photograph, and maybe something that happened to it after it was taken. He looks for what remains after something vanishes, what settles down after contamination has taken place, or what gets reconfigured by accidental binding. He tries to learn from these accidents or phenomena and deploys them as tools into the making of what he calls “informed objects,” or objects that can speak of what they have been through.

Zaatari has often evoked Archeology, metaphorically, while talking about his search for photographic documents, uncovering or excavating, and displacing artifacts away from their original uses to study them. In this exhibition he relies on methods used in Archeology, such as 3D scanning, to record the textured surfaces of deteriorating photographic negatives, as in the series Against Photography, 2017. There are multiple media used in this exhibition, which does not include any original material. From traditional techniques like Cyanotypes, traditional print making and painting, to inkjet printing on paper or glass and video; all merge into making a single photographic journey.

The Third Window offers in the beginning a broad reading of the history of photography, through its basic material, moving away from image content in order to uncover what’s buried within banalities, and that which nevertheless testifies to a century of unsettlement and violence.


Akram Zaatari (b.1966 in Lebanon) has produced more than fifty films and videos, a dozen books, and countless installations of photographic material, all sharing an interest in writing histories, pursuing a range of interconnected themes, subjects, and practices related to excavation, political resistance, the lives of former militants, the legacy of an exhausted left, the circulation of images in times of war, and the play of tenses inherent to various letters that have been lost, found, buried, discovered, or otherwise delayed in reaching their destinations. Zaatari has played a critical role in developing the formal, intellectual, and institutional infrastructure of Beirut’s contemporary art scene. As a co-founder of the Arab Image Foundation, a groundbreaking, artist-driven organization devoted to the research and study of photography in the Arab world, he has made invaluable and uncompromising contributions to the wider discourse on preservation and archival practice. Zaatari’s represented Lebanon at the Venice Biennial in 2013. His work has been featured at Documenta 13 in 2012.

His work is part of institutional collections such as the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Guggenheim Museum, Abu Dhabi; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; K21 Dusseldorf; MACBA, Barcelona; MoMA, New York; Serralves Foundation, Porto; Tate Modern, London and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.