Silent Scream Installation

Statuettes of skeletal anonymous women, possibly marching or possibly stationary, divided and bifurcated, fill the gallery in Sana Farah-Bishara’s installation, ’48. The woman-figure in the installation attests to a formal upheaval in Farah-Bishara’s artistic method.

For years, Farah-Bishara’s oeuvre was typified by bronze sculptures of sensuous, proud women who corresponded to the classic figurative sculpture tradition yet undermined it. These works expressed the conceptual reality of her life as a person, a woman, a mother, and an artist who oscillates and struggles between compliance with externally imposed norms and the mental turmoil of her inner world. Through their expressive bodily gestures and deconstructive demarches, the sculpted women became modular and sometimes even hollow entities that may scatter into the void at any moment, charged with an inner tension that reflects a critique of the impossible reality in which woman is thrust. The characters nameless faces make it hard to affix any clear social, cultural, or national identity to them; therefore, each of them can be any woman, anywhere.

On second glance, however, it is hard not to see in pain-inflicting moves and symbolic bodily gestures the connection between the sculpted characters and Farah-Bishara’s biography and family history as the daughter of a rooted Christian, Arab, and Palestinian family that experienced the trauma of 1948, the Nakba, in its flesh, undermining the stability of the nuclear family and the social fabric and personal identity riven and restive. The installation ’48 is another link in the chain of Farah-Bishara’s artistic endeavors. It originated in a small sculpture that she produced many years ago, concise and modest in its conceptual form but concurrently frightening, expressing a repressed, muted agony.

 

The work was confined to her home studio and stationed there as a present-absentee. The decision to see it as a self-replicating prototype is the outcome of soul-searching and a lengthy inner process, both of which maturing into a clear statement that no longer repudiates the ongoing profound pain but rather boldly stations in the center something that no one talks about, something that people hide and fear, in the form of women who lost their feminine and sexual features and became ghosts. Their diminutive size evokes intimate ritual objects in the home and small icons that can be moved about from place to place. Their use amplifies the senses of uprooting and refugee ship that arise from the installation, with woman serving as the bearer of the trauma of the Nakba, which advances from generation to generation like a ghostly spirit, a testimony, and a memory that never loses their potency.

Imbued and imprinted in Farah-Bishara’s works are imageries of pain, loss, and grief that originate in the Christian symbol set, e.g., the crucifixion, the Pietà, and Mary and son. These images are ingrained in the roots of the artist’s cultural and religious identity, expressing it and resonating from its midst, as is also expressed in the sculpture The Crucifixion, which is installed divided, agape, and wounded in the exhibition hall as a silent scream.

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©2020 by SANA FARAH-BISHARA.