A Gallery of Martyrs – The Martyr in the Gallery
Straub, Verena – 2017
In my first example of such a shift in framing, I draw from an art scandal in the Parisian gallery Jeu de Paume. In 2013, the gallery curated an exhibition with works by Palestinian photographer Ahlam Shibli, which included her series Death (2011-12). Shibli’s 68 photographs with accompanying texts document images of shaheeds as they appear in private and public spaces in the city of Nablus, a bastion of resistance during the Second Intifada. Shibli’s photographs confronted visitors of her Paris exhibition with this everyday presence of martyr images in public spaces. Some photographs in her series reflect on the way in which these martyr images also permeate the intimate space of ordinary Palestinian families, fluctuating between a deep reverence for them as quasi-religious icons and the banality of pop-star posters.3 The paintings or Photoshopped images depicted in Shibli’s photographs typically show the shaheeds posing with an assault rifle, next to a medley of political and national slogans and the image of the Dome of the Rock, idealizing the depicted not only as national heroes but also as saintly defenders of Jerusalem.