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From Gaza to Florida

At Aperture’s gallery, Palestinian photographer Taysir Batniji discusses his new book and exhibition, Home Away from Home.

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Taysir Batniji, Cathy Kaplan, Chris Boot Madison Reid © Aperture Foundation

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Catherine Tsekenis, Taysir Batniji, Sophie Jaulmes-Batniji, Peter Malachi Madison Reid © Aperture Foundation

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Madison Reid © Aperture Foundation

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Catherine Tsekenis, Taysir Batniji, Sam Stourdzé, Chris Boot Madison Reid © Aperture Foundation

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Safa Batniji, Vanessa Leiva Santos Madison Reid © Aperture Foundation

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Yazam Khalili, unknown, Rima Abdul-Malak, Taysir Batniji, Sophie Jaulmes- Batniji Madison Reid © Aperture Foundation

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Omar Batniji, Kamal Batniji, Turkya Batniji, Safa Batniji, Taysir Batniji, Sophie Jaulmes Batniji, Saleem Batniji Madison Reid © Aperture Foundation

On March 17, 2018, Aperture Foundation and the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès presented a talk with Aperture’s executive director Chris Boot and photographer Taysir Batniji about his new book and exhibition, Home Away from Home. Guests congregated in Aperture’s Chelsea gallery for the third and final installment of Immersion, a French American Photography Commission, a joint project by Aperture and Hermès.

Home Away from Home is a singular and intimate portrait of Batniji’s own familial diaspora. Born in Gaza, Batniji now lives and works in France. His most recent work explores the idea of home through visits with several family members who have relocated to the U.S. In the book and exhibit, he brings together photographs, documents, drawings based on his memories, videos from interviews, and selections from his family’s archives to explore a sense of dislocation and a state of “between-ness,” both culturally and geographically. The resulting body of work questions what it means to share a history—even among relative strangers—and what happens to the sense of past and of belonging when opting for new identities and homes.

Boot and Batniji’s conversation began with a philosophical discussion on the state of photography—authorship, methods of presentation, technicalities, and appropriation. Batniji then spoke about his photographs of Israeli military watchtowers, taken along the edge of Gaza and formatted into a grid-like sequence, which references Bernd and Hilla Becher, in particular Water Towers (1972–2009). After the watchtowers series, Batniji photographed the war-torn and uninhabitable homes in Gaza following the 2008–9 Israeli attacks. Borrowing from the commercial language of the real-estate industry, Batniji pairs photographs of rubble-strewn homes with descriptions such as, “living room, dining room, kitchen, 2 bathrooms/wc. 900m2orchard of olive trees, fig trees, vines, and a fountain. Garage in the garden. Unrestricted sea view. Inhabitants: 5 families (23 people).”

Batniji describes his work as dealing with life and with people. Politics and conflict exist in, but are not illuminated by, his images; his work doesn’t masquerade as political speech. Batniji notes, “Walls and suffering, they are inescapably there, but juxtaposed to this is life. Even in the middle of conflict is modernity.”

Taysir Batniji (born in Gaza, 1966) trained as a painter at An-Najah National University, Nablus, prior to continuing his studies in France at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Art de Bourges, and the École Supérieure d’Art et de Design Marseille-Méditerranée. His work incorporates drawing, video, photography, and installation, and has been shown widely in Europe and the Middle East, including at the Venice Biennale; Jeu de Paume, Paris; Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin; Kunsthalle Wien; and Witte de With, Rotterdam.

Home Away from Home is copublished by Aperture and the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès on the occasion of Immersion, a French American Photography Commission. Taysir Batniji: Home Away from Homeis on view at Aperture Gallery through May 10, 2018.

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Aperture Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that relies on the generosity of individuals for support of its publications, exhibitions, and public and educational programming.

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