Installation view, 'The Blue Hour', Galerie Heike Strelow, Frankfurt a.M., Germany, 2019.

Relentless Images

2018, Wooden frame, cardboard, digital print on photographic paper, 42x55,6 cm each

Today’s media represents Syrians as threats, statistics, or anonymous victims stripped of their humanity. Relentless Images rejects these codes by creating a critical counter-archive to the flood of images of mutilated, tortured Syrian corpses in world media.

Over 400.000 people have been killed in the civil war in Syria. Many prisoners have disappeared, and at least 148,00 are still detained in torture prisons. At the end of 2013, a former military police photographer, going by the name Caesar, published 55.000 documentation photos of individuals killed through torture. In each of these images, the bodies and faces of the deceased are unceremoniously plastered with strips of masking tape scrawled with numbers pertaining to the detainee, the compound in which they were held, and the time and date of their death. This process of archiving human lives, turning individuals into statistics and erasing their personal stories, showcases the mastery of the regime at dehumanization. It also reflects the effects of perceiving such mass killing through the lens of the media, which inherently focuses on digestible statistics and sensationalist imagery.

In Relentless Images, the artist implicates his practice in these dehumanizing acts, reducing these images of the deceased to their digital metadata. This multi-layered process, consisting of the extraction of the imaginary images’ metadata, hand tracing it on strips of tape, and once again turning it into a photograph, highlights the atrocities of the regime while simultaneously inverting the archiving process, turning it into a protective act which shields the identifying characteristics of the vulnerable victims. Removing their images, and framing only tape and data, protects the dignity of these men and women. Relentless Images is a fictional suggestion of what could it be a critically dehumanized contemporary representation of Syrians, forcing viewers to confront the victims’ transformation into cold statistics.

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