Bady Dalloul

Bady Dalloul’s Scrapbook is a 48 minute video beginning from his birth, tracing major global events of the 20th century, including the beginning and current Occupation and colonization of Palestine, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, assassination of family members and the Syrian diaspora. A voice over follows these moments as the camera traces over the collage that includes text; photos; postcards; origami birds; and inserted videos of world leaders. The film is a letter to the viewer, imploring the witnessing of what we assume, but cannot know, to be the artist speaking. Here, the artist confounds the real and the fictional so as to escape from and reinvent the official narratives. In Japan the artist found a scrapbook whose pages were covered with little pieces of colored paper folded into origami, flattened and pasted. Dalloul kept it and here we find the source for a narrative intertwining the histories of Japan and Syria. In Hiroshima, he came across the story of Sadako, a young girl who suffered from leukemia as a result of the atomic bomb dropped on the city August 6, 1945. While dying she recalled the ancient legend that a person who makes a thousand orgami will have their greatest wish granted. Between the origami on yellowed pages are texts and images combining reality and fantasy as they address questions of war and political, military and economic decisions, and their impact on the fate of individuals. Using both authentic and fictional archives, this work also explores the fabrication of memory through imposed narratives. By adopting different forms and tones in his work, Dalloul explores the mechanisms and processes of authority and domination, of imperialism, that were part of the manipulation of the region’s historical narrative and memory, and its repercussions on the collective imagination.

The oeuvre of Bady Dalloul currently based in Paris, sophisticatedly and cunningly employs collage across various media: texts, drawings, video, and objects to produce powerful works commenting on the past and the present. His collages imply a construction, the fabrication of a space that is simultaneously autobiographical, critical, poetic and narrative. Thus, he makes narratives where the real and fiction, and individual and collective experiences, enter into a permanent dialogue questioning the official historical grand narratives. The artist conceived of a fragile book, tattered by time and long use. It’s a diary, and he has patiently filled every page. He has taken notes ever since his childhood spent in Paris and Damascus, cutting out and pasting in illustrations from history magazines and books to make up stories like Badland (1999–2004). His practice began as a way to keep busy and counter boredom and the incomprehensibility of the crisis that has held Syria in its grip for decades. For 5 years, he filled his notebooks with definitions, notes on events, information (scientific, geostrategic, military, economic and historical) and maps. A long-term project guided by a question, an obsession: do images represent the truth of our world?