David G. Tretiakoff
Immolation I

Immolation I is taken from the four-part Immolation series which shows four Arab revolutionaries who publicly sacrificed themselves through self-immolation and in so doing heralded the beginning of the Arab Spring. The lugubrious drawings are made with cigarette burns, a direct reference to torture and burning stakes, even if what is depicted here can be considered the ultimate act of resistance in the form of self-destruction.

The portraits were meticulously executed on large-scale fragile sheets of paper. They present horribly detailed images imbued with paradoxical power. The burning male figures — Mohamed Bouazizi from Tunisia, Ahmad Hachem as-Sayyed from Egypt, Ahmad al-Matarneh from Jordan and Hamza Al-Khatib from Syria — surrounded by flames, seem to be consumed by an incessant torture; the burn holes through the paper show a trajectory of scars. Here, Tretiakoff presents the disconnection between political religiosity and resistance.

The immolations are part of a broader body of work consisting of drawings graphics, photographs and burnt paper, revisiting The Red Line Agreement. Tretiakoff goes back to the secret meeting in the Royal Palace Hotel in Ostend, Belgium in 1928 when 3 men decided they would divide up the world between them. Merging the 3 biggest oil companies at the time, they sealed the fate of the world for a long time to come. Mirroring them to revolutionaries of the Arab world, Tretiakoff creates a chilling dispositive, wherein the geopolitical touches the intimate, with an eerie proximity of the body.

The work of French filmmaker David Gheron Tretiakoff often revolves around the socio-political movements of the Middle East. Seeking to avoid a journalistic didacticism, he instead looks to reveal the psycho-social impact of national oppression, international terrorism and the reverberations of history. His work intentionally leaves the viewer feeling uneasy as he exposes the inherent contradictions of habituation and resistance that inhabit such situations.

One of his seminal works, A God Passing (2007) documents the statue of Ramses travelling from Cairo to a new museum on the Giza Plateau shortly before the Arab Spring. As crowds of people flood the street and the scene descends into chaos, we retrospectively realize that we are baring witness to one of the first moments of the people taking stock of their own power, as the authorities stand by helpless and we’re left wondering, did Ramses catalyze the Arab Spring?