May 3 to June 22, 2019
Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art is pleased to present Suspended Time, the first solo exhibition in Canada by Palestinian artist Taysir Batniji. Curated by Scott McLeod and presented as a primary exhibition of the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, this exhibition surveys Batniji’s major works of the past twenty years, with a particular emphasis on photography. Specifically, three of his most significant photographic series from his formative years are presented alongside selected sculptures and works on paper.
An opening reception, in conjunction with the release party for Prefix Photo 39, will be held on Friday, May 3, 2019 from 7 to 10 PM at Prefix, located at 401 Richmond Street West, Suite 124, Toronto. The artist and the curator will be present. An artist and curator walk through will be held on Saturday, May 4, 2019 at 2 PM at Prefix. The exhibition continues until Saturday, June 22, 2019. The gallery is open to the public from Wednesday to Saturday, 12 to 5 PM, and by appointment. Admission is free.
As a Palestinian artist who lives and works in France, Taysir Batniji explores in his work the social, cultural and political realities of Palestine, the challenges of migration, and the state of being “in between.” His sculpture Suspended Time (2007), from which this exhibition takes its name, provides an apt representation of the exhibition as a whole. In this work, the conjoined glass orbs of an hourglass sit side by side, with grains of sand resting in the bottom of each. In effect, time stands still, and the most potent symbolism of the hourglass – that of the inexorable passing of time and the inevitability of change – is neutralized. This exhibition invites us to consider the effect on one’s worldview when the natural forces that govern our lives – time, movement, change – are suspended.
Gaza Walls (2001), a work originally created as a slide show and subsequently presented as a digital projection and a wallpaper installation, is shown as a series of colour photographic prints. The work depicts the walls of Gaza City during the first months of the Second Intifada, at which time they became an essential medium of display for portraits of martyrs. The loss of the individual is echoed in the deterioration of the images.
Watchtowers (2008) is a series of black-and-white photographs that document the watchtowers installed by the Israeli military on the West Bank. Inspired by the formal strategies of German photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher, the work presents a typological survey of these structures. Unlike the Bechers, however, the work eschews technical mastery, as it was, of necessity, shot surreptitiously under perilous conditions.
GH0809 (2010) documents the remnants of houses and other infrastructure destroyed in bombardments during an Israeli military operation in Gaza in 2008–09. Here, the photographs are displayed in the form of real-estate advertisements, replete with detailed descriptions of the former dwellings. As with Watchtowers, the work plays upon the expectations of the viewers by starkly contrasting a familiar format with arresting content.
Lastly, To My Brother (2012) is a series for which Batniji hand-carved images onto paper that were based upon photographs from his late brother’s wedding album. At first glance, the paper appears blank, but upon closer scrutiny, the latent image becomes apparent. This series can thus be said to distil the characteristics that most distinctly represent the artist’s entire oeuvre: emptiness, absence, fragility, erasure, loss.
About the artist
Taysir Batniji, born 1966 in Gaza, is a visual artist who works in a variety of media, including photography, video, performance, sculpture and installation. In 1992, he received a BA from An-Najah National University (Nablus), and, in 1997, a DNSEP from the National School of Fine Art (Bourges). Since then, he has divided his time between Palestine and France. His work has been featured in numerous exhibitions, most recently at the Aperture Foundation (New York) and the Mina Image Center (Beirut). In 2012, he was a recipient of the Abraaj Group Art Prize. He is represented by Galerie Eric Dupont (Paris) and Galerie Sfeir-Semler (Hamburg/Beirut).
About the curator
Scott McLeod is a writer, curator and arts administrator. The founding director of Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art, he focuses on contemporary practices, with a specialization in photographic, media and digital art. His upcoming projects include solo exhibitions of the work of Lara Almarcegui and Amar Kanwar.
Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art is a public art gallery with the distinguishing features of publishing an art magazine and presenting an international lecture series. A registered charitable organization, Prefix fosters the appreciation and understanding of contemporary photographic, media and digital arts through exhibitions, publications, public programmes and related activities.
For their support of Suspended Time, Prefix gratefully acknowledges the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, the Institut Français, and the Toronto Cultural Office of the French Embassy in Canada. Prefix also gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Toronto Arts Council with funding from the City of Toronto. The work of Taysir Batniji appears courtesy of the artist, the collection of Marie-Aline Prat (Paris), Galerie Eric Dupont (Paris) and Galerie Sfeir-Semler (Hamburg/Beirut).
Photo: Taysir Batniji, “No. 51” from Gaza Walls, 2001. 57 photographs in slide projection and other formats. Variable dimensions. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Sfeir-Semler (Hamburg/Beirut).