April 1, 2010
Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige

By Vivian Rehberg

“We could be heroes, just for one day” at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
December 12, 2008 – March 8, 2009

The emergence and disappearance of images and evidence are predominant themes in “We could be heroes, just for one day,” a presentation of collaborative work by Beirut-born filmmakers and photographers Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige. The show, which deals exclusively with their homeland, is composed of filmic or photographic fragments; the first three encountered literally come apart or obstinately refuse to cohere. Le cercle de confusion (The Circle of Confusion; 1997) is an aerial photographic mural of Beirut in 1997, made up of 3,000 small rectangles that can be removed, one by one, to eventually reveal a mirror. Lasting Images (2003), meanwhile, presents three minutes of damaged found Super-8 footage shot by Joreige’s uncle, who was kidnapped during the civil war. Amid the barely visible, washed-out landscapes and the people who occasionally materialize, an extraordinary moment occurs when the lens zooms in on some unintelligible thing and that gesture causes the full weight of the missing uncle’s subjectivity to rush into the frame. A related work,180 secondes d’images rémanentes (180 Seconds of Residual Images; 2006), opposite the moving images, spreads 4,500 photograms from that film across a large white screen, and echoes the format of Le cercle de confusion. Further along, the dual video projection Khiam (2001-07) gathers testimony from former prisoners of the Khiam detention camp, many of whom regret that the transformation of that site into a museum has effaced all trace of the unbearable realities they survived. Throughout, the metaphorical complexity of the artists’ documentary approach, and their coherent attempt to glean sense out of dispersed visual remains, strikes at the heart of the vexing problem of political representation while renewing its possibilities.

“Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige” originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Modern Painters. For a complete list of articles from this issue available on ARTINFO, see Modern Painters’ April 2009 Table of Contents.