Critics’ Picks

Luca Capuano, Dheisheh refugee camp, 2016, photograph, dimensions variable. From the series “Refugee Heritage,” a photographic dossier commissioned by DAAR (Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti), 2016.

Luca Capuano, Dheisheh refugee camp, 2016, photograph, dimensions variable. From the series “Refugee Heritage,” a photographic dossier commissioned by DAAR (Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti), 2016.

London

DAAR

The Mosaic Rooms
226 Cromwell Road A.M. Qattan Foundation Tower House
October 13, 2021–January 30, 2022

Could a refugee camp be acknowledged as a World Heritage Site, one that exists beyond the parameters of the nation-state? To answer this question, Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal (working together as DAAR, the Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency) have conducted extensive fieldwork in Palestine, Hilal’s country of origin. As the title of their exhibition “Stateless Heritage” suggests, they have focused on the relocations of life and culture forced upon Palestinians by Israeli settlement since 1948, producing, in collaboration with UNESCO photographer Luca Capuano, a series of images depicting the leveled remains of forty-four Palestinian villages—the ancestral homes of approximately fifteen thousand refugees living in the Dheisheh camp near Bethlehem.  

Presented in forty-four folios and arranged in piles of various heights that evoke the ruined structures captured therein, the images reveal the destruction of architecture as a tactic of Israeli occupation. The photos are accompanied by a voice-over that calmly narrates the history of these demolished villages, most of which have been reclaimed by nature. A second series depicting the Dheisheh camp underscores what Petti and Hilal call the “permanent temporariness” of this supposedly transitional space, which indeed has been a lifelong home for many. Presented here as a large-scale light-box installation that invites the spectator to wander through the urban scenography of the camp at night, the photographs, also taken by Capuano, have been submitted to UNESCO as evidence of the “outstanding universal value” of this stateless city. 

DAAR’s reflection on exile and belonging concludes with Al Madhafah (The Living Room), first installed by Hilal in Swedish the city of Boden in 2018. It is a mobile version of a living room, a space for hospitality and exchange in times of social insecurity.