When it comes to international conflict, we tend to hear only about the climaxes—never the aftermath. Rarely are we exposed to the sheer extent of destruction. Rarely do we see or understand the impact that war has on real human lives. “Visible”, a new multimedia exhibit at the Art Gallery of Mississauga, deals with the devastation resulting from the violence in Gaza and the experience of resisting military powers.
The artist, Palestinian-born Rehab Nazzal, is known for using multimedia to create immersive exhibits reflecting on the violence of war and colonialism as well as human rights violations, and “Visible” is no exception. Upon entering the gallery, one is immediately captivated by a large display of 1,500 photographs, each depicting the wreckage of homes, high-rises, and even places of worship. Amid the ruins in many of the pictures, we see the residents of Gaza—a woman crying on the shoulder of a reporter, a man calmly fingering prayer beads as he sits on a couch on top of a pile of rubble, a young girl carrying her younger sibling. We see men and women, children and the elderly, all the faces of the conflict. These 1,500 images, derived from emails, activists’ postings, and online media, are almost colourless. Interspersed between these images are coloured squares, inserted to provide visual relief from the images of destruction and to suggest optimism and hope.
On the adjacent wall runs blurry, uninterpretable footage, recorded during a weekly protest in the Palestinian village of Bil’in in 2010. The viewer can put on headphones to hear accompanying audio, though the audio and footage have been manipulated to emulate the experience of a protestor afflicted with tear gas.
Around the corner in a separate, darkened room, viewers can hear loud exchanges in Arabic, which have been translated and projected onto the wall. What is heard is a military exercise being carried out by Israeli prison guards on Palestinian prisoners in 2007. This military operation was responsible for the death of one prisoner and the injury of many others.
In addition to the three pieces of the installation, the AGM has included a tablet containing a wide range of news broadcasts covering the conflict in Gaza. By contrasting several news sources, the display prompts the viewer to question how our media sources inform our views on the conflict.
Overall, “Visible” makes for a powerful, emotional experience. Nazzal resourcefully situates the visitor as both spectator and participant, forcing us to reflect deeply upon the impact of war on the human psyche.
“Visible” runs at the Art Gallery of Mississauga until January 1.