Palestinian artist, filmmaker and storyteller Basma Alsharif presents three films that shed light on the untold stories of her elusive nation.
This spring, LA-based Palestinian artist Basma Alsharif has her first UK solo at The Mosaic Rooms in London, where three major films create an immersive environment for viewers. Alsharif has long used moving image installations as investigations to unravel individual and collective understandings of history as it is framed by the political. Alsharif is an artist, filmmaker and storyteller who has built up an impressive career over the years. She employs her Palestinian diaspora experiences as a lens to mediate on diverse imagistic material she has collected from visits to the Gaza strip, alongside an artistic practice that has taken her to cities including Chicago, Cairo, Beirut, Sharjah, Amman, Paris and Los Angeles.
For this exhibition, she shows three films: We Began By Measuring Distance (c.2009), High Noon (2014) and Ouroboros (2017). Her most recent, Ouroboros, is an experimental film shot across five locations, including Gaza that tells “the allegorical story of an endless cycle of destruction and renewal through a central character recovering from heartbreak.” Gaza portrayed here is filmed at a distance and directed remotely, as the artist was unable to visit when the work was being made. High Noon in contrast, embodies the dissonance of experiencing multiple time zones and places at once via colour-saturated images of Japan and California, which merge together as the camera cuts across time zones, accompanied by a low fi electro soundtrack. We Began By Measuring Distance starts with a gruelling female voice screaming out in Arabic for her father and continues as long still frames consisting of text, language and sound woven together to unfold the narrative of an anonymous group who fill their time by measuring distance. The work began as “hours of unrelated footage and a frustration with history, facts and the impossibility to reconcile tragedy with my own experience of a lifetime of witnessing tragedy from a physical distance to Palestine.”
This year marks 70 years since the forced displacement of the Palestinian people upon the founding of the state of Israel. Alsharif’s films are of significance at this moment in time, as she puts forward a non-geographically based subjective viewpoint that raises questions not just on what it means to create artworks about Palestine, but also encourages viewers to engage with the depiction of language, time and space, and use this as a critical tool that allows for new histories to be told.
Featured image: We Began By Measuring Distance, Basma Alsharif, 2009. Image by Andy Stagg, courtesy The Mosaic Rooms.
A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, Curriculum Vitae #44, pages 42-43.