Zuabi’s exhibition is composed of two performative video artworks. The first is mute, and documents Zuabi and fellow artist Ido Barel – who is also her MA supervisor at Haifa University – as they repeatedly ascend and descend in a transparent elevator. The second work speaks, fills the stillness with sound, also repetitive, the sound of the Arabic language suddenly reclaiming the Israeli space from which it is permanently excluded, by way of a mock Arabic lesson in which the professor is now the student. The camera moves across the empty space of the university’s art department and returns to the elevator. This time, the two are gone, and only now and then does a phantom figure flicker, a reflection of the artist on the glass. The sound echoes not only within the space of the house where the two works are displayed, but also ventures out into the Jaffaite street from which Arabic has long ago been effaced, transforming it by reintroducing the language into the space where it belongs.
Displaying this work in a home from which a Palestinian family was uprooted in 1948 produces a heterotopic space reminiscent of the Palestine that used to be and is no more, of the Palestinian homeowners who have become refugees overnight, a real space that exists but also does not, one that simultaneously incorporates the utopian dimension of memory and its contradiction. In that sense, the work evokes history’s ghost, a ghost entombed in every stone, hidden behind every street corner, “threatening” to return to Jaffa that used to be Yaffa. Nicholas Mirzoeff defines the ghost as existing in the liminal areas of culture, marking excluded populations that remain transparent, seemingly invisible, but can become visible if we isolate the its apparition, and seek to understand why and how the excluded have been turned into phantoms. Zuabi’s work enables us to apply a different kind of vision and hearing, allowing us to imagine what has been erased and isolate the ghost of the place as a vision of the lost past which is, significantly, also a reflection on the present.
The exhibition was exhibitied in a house in 17 Dante street in Jaffa as part of the Houses beyond the Hyphen project which took place in Jaffa-Yaffa between May 14 and 16.