untitled, part 1: everything and nothing

Untitled, Part 1: Everything and Nothing
Jayce Salloum
1999 (2001)
Original format DVM
40:40 minutes

The first installment from the ongoing tape, ‘untitled’. An intimate dialogue that weaves back and forth between representations of a figure (of resistance) and subject with, *Soha Bechara ex-Lebanese National Resistance fighter in her Paris dorm room taped (during the last year of the Israeli occupation) one year after her release from captivity in El-Khiam torture and interrogation centre (S. Lebanon) where she had been detained for 10 years, 6 years in isolation. Revising notions of resistance, survival and will, recounting to death, separation and closeness; the overexposed image and body of a surviving martyr speaking quietly and directly into the camera juxtaposed against her self and image, not speaking of the torture but of the distance between the subject and loss, of what is left behind and what remains.

*Soha Bechara is a heroine in Lebanon, pictures of her are seen in many houses in the South and posters of her were seen all around downtown Beirut when I was working there in the early 90’s. She was captured in 1988  for trying to assassinate the general of the SLA, Antoine Lahad (the South Lebanese Army was a proxy militia set up & controlled by the Israeli forces to give a Lebanese façade to the occupation of South Lebanon). I didn’t ask her anything specifically about the torture she underwent or the trauma of detention, she was being interviewed to death by the European and Arab press over the details of her captivity and the minutiae of her surviving it and the conditions in El-Khiam and the detainees and the resistance. I went to her small dorm room, not much bigger than her cell (she is presently studying international law at the Sorbonne), she sat on her bed and I asked her about the distance lived between Khiam and Paris, and Beirut and Paris, and what she left in Khiam and what she brought with her, a story about flowers and how she never puts them in water, how it felt for her now to be under such demand, and who she was, and what the title of the tape should be, and a few other things. This video material that I recorded of the time spent with her is not precious, just time and a conversation, and intense intimacy at a close and unbreachable distance.

As if an itinerant geographer of conflicted territories (most everywhere), Salloum observes the world and creates/collects images/texts to make meaning from or comment on. Since arriving here – by no means of his own volition – he tries to go only where he is invited or where there is an intrinsic affinity, his projects being rooted in an intimate engagement with place. A grandson of Syrian or Lebanese immigrants he was born and raised on others’ land, the Sylix (Okanagan) territory. After 21 years living and working elsewheres he planted himself on the unceded stolen lands of the Xʷməθkʷey̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh + Səíl̓wətaʔł. Recognizing and acting on this is an everyday practice, but let’s face it, he could do a lot more. In/out of this context not that it really matters, Salloum has lectured and published pervasively and exhibited peripatetically at the widest range of local and international venues possible and most improbable, from the smallest unnamed storefronts in his downtown eastside Vancouver neighbourhood to institutions such as the Musée du Louvre, Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim Museum, Centre Georges Pompidou, National Gallery of Canada, Bienal De La Havana, Sharjah Biennial, Biennale of Sydney and the Rotterdam International Film Festival.