Bady Dalloul
Straight Flush - The Balfour Declaration (1917)

The Great Game is a series of works composed of a number of card combinations illustrated by the faces of key political figures shaping the geopolitical landscape in the Middle East. Each reconstituted ‘hand of play’ corresponds to a diplomatic treaty establishing or modifying geographical borders. The plastic form of a poker hand chosen by the artist highlights the randomness of the process of fixing boundaries and the way in which they do not account for the lives of those located there. These eleven works cover two major themes of Dalloul’s artistic practice, play and power relations in geopolitics.

In this combination, Dalloul focuses on the Balfour Declaration featuring images of David Lloyd George, The Viscount Milner, Baron Rothschild, Arthur James Balfour and Leo Amery. Signed in 1917 by Arthur Balfour, former British Foreign Secretary, this open letter is addressed to Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild, eminence of the British Jewish community and is proof of the promise made on behalf of the British government by Lord Balfour to recognize a Jewish national home in Palestine. This promise marked the history of the Middle East forever; the state of Israel was created in 1948 as a result of this British commitment.

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?