“The Insider Is Missing, The Outside Is Born”… Artistic treatment of photos of the victims of Syrian detentions

A few weeks ago, the project “The Inside Is Missing, The Outside Is Born” by the young Syrian artist Myriam Salameh was met with great acclaim at the Australian University of Melbourne, where his compositions were displayed alongside many other projects.

The project also achieved a great ovation and wide echoes in the Australian media and among all those interested in the art of sculpture and its products.

“The Inside is Missing and the Outside is Born” is 21 compositions of faces (portraits) made of colored clay, through which they embodied the integrity of the torments of detainees and victims in the prisons of the Syrian regime, based on the photos leaked by the Syrian activist “Caesar” in 2014 as reference sources for their compositions.

The Syrian sculptor’s project also won the Australian “Fiona Mayer” Art Award in recognition of the psychological and artistic efforts she put into the completion of this project.

The young Syrian sculptor Myriam Salameh (Al Jazeera)

Inside it is missing and outside it is born

After the famous Arab traveler “Ibn Battuta” succeeded in crossing a vast desert from the Levant to reach “Tabuk” in Saudi Arabia, and drank water from a spring in it after hours of thirst, he said his sentence “the inside is missing and the outside is born”, he reduced the hardship of crossing that desert and surviving it end of the day.

Then the Arabs revived that phrase coinciding with the birth of the totalitarian military regimes in the middle of the last century and the repression and torture they practiced in their prisons. The inside of their prisons is missing and it is not known if he will come out, and the outside of them is born because a new life has been written for him.

It is the phrase that Salama chose to be the title of her graduation project at the University of Melbourne in Australia, which included 21 portraits made of fragile clay of the faces of those who died under torture in the prisons of the Syrian regime.

On the reason for choosing this title, Salama tells Al Jazeera Net, “The title of my exhibition came as a message to the world about the extent of the horror and horrors that detainees suffer in Assad’s prisons, then to ask the question: What can we do about these repeated traumatic events, and what role do we play by addressing such These humanitarian events and issues?

And because the project is an artistic treatment of the photographs of the victims of Syrian detentions that were leaked by the Syrian activist “Caesar” in 2014, the formations of the young sculptor were limited to heads and faces.

Fragility and uniqueness.. Clay mirror

Salama has worked hard to make each artistic component of her compositions a semantic, aesthetic and human dimension that exposes the recipient to the worlds of the victims and the tortured in the prisons of the Syrian regime, starting with the composition material (clay) that the artist relied on as a semantic element that would reproduce the course of her tragedy of arrest, which is what is in the course of her arrest. She said, “One of the characteristics of clay is the change and erosion with time, and the setting of a default life for each composition, and the fragility of this material in the face of time makes the work closer to reality by simulating the life of prisoners in the prison. The clay gives the work life, but it quickly collapses and erodes like the lives of detainees.”

The different colors of the faces in the formations came as an expression of the artist’s refusal to consider the detainees’ victims as mere numbers that can be referred to as if they were a tragedy and an event that has passed, considering that each of the victims is a tragedy in its own right, and each victim has its own privacy and uniqueness independent of other victims, and she says, “The colors were to emphasize the The uniqueness of each martyr who died in Assad’s prisons.

As for the tripods of iron sculptures, they reflect the coldness and cruelty in the prison space, and refer to the camera that documented those massacres, while the blue color refers to Caesar, who always wore blue while giving his testimony, according to Salameh.

Although the formations simulate the images of the victims of the regime’s prisons, Salama preferred to blur the signs of torture on the faces and rid them of the distortions resulting from his brutality, and kept the numbers above the foreheads as an indicative sign of the event, while she worked to highlight the looks of the eyes to appear “as if they are chasing every beholder.” to it” in order to deepen the recipient’s sense of the suffering of the victims.

It is worth noting that the project “The Inside Is Missing, The Outside Is Born” consisted of 21 compositions (portrait), but the artist is determined to complete it to become 55 compositions, in a symbolic reference to the number of images leaked by Caesar, which amounts to about 55 thousand images.

The project “The Inside Is Lost, The Outside Is Born” consists of 21 portraits (Al Jazeera)

Art aches and pains

The sculptor, who hails from the village of Marmarita in the Homs countryside, arrived in Australia in 2012 after she was subjected to security pressures due to her peaceful activism in the Syrian revolution. She continued her studies of art at Melbourne College in the capital, Sydney.

In Sydney, her first art exhibition was titled “Al-Mufradah 180-185”, and it included many plastic paintings that depicted the safety of human suffering inside Syria.

This was followed by the project “The Inside Is Missing, The Outside Is Born,” which took two years of research, work, and contemplation of the images of the victims before seeing the light, which had a great impact on Salama’s conscience, who expresses this by saying, “Living in the details of the images and the effects of torture is terrifying and exhausting, and it constitutes pressure.” It is difficult to live with it and difficult to overcome at the time of its completion, to the extent that I was terrified on one occasion due to the fall of part of a portrait, and the idea of ​​the collapse of my work made of clay that embodies life and death at the same time terrified me, but the tragedy lies in the fact that the fall of part of the portrait is a sincere expression of suffering detainees under torture.

Salama: Living in the details of the pictures and traces of torture is terrifying and exhausting (Al-Jazeera)

In honor of the late professor

Salama wrote in the self-identification box as part of her project on her personal account on Facebook, “Student of the Syrian sculptor Wael Qastoun,” as she describes it.

Qastun died under torture on July 23, 2012, months after his arrest in a security branch in Homs.

Despite his absence, the late remained present in Salama’s conscience, who speaks of him, saying, “From the first moment I entered the workshop to work on my project, Wael was present with me. I did not treat my teacher as absent because he was present in all the details. His way of working, and I put signs like his on the parts that need to be modified.”

Salama concludes, “My work was not just a gift to Wael, who I lost in Assad’s prisons. My work from the beginning was in honor of him and his care for me. He is the first teacher, friend, and creditor for what I am today.”

In addition to Salama, many Syrian artists addressed the issue of the detainee, including the plastic artist Khader Abdel Karim, the plastic artist Abdel Razzaq Shalbout, and the sculptor Khaled Dawa.

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