National Pavilion UAE - A Glimpse Through a Locked Box | Review by Ilaria Balestra
  • A Glimpse Through a Locked Box | Review by Ilaria Balestra

    “Draw me a sheep”, says the little Prince to the narrator. The narrator makes a drawing of a sheep. “No. this sheep is already very sickly. Make me another.” So he makes another drawing. The little prince smiles gently and indulgently and says: “This is not a sheep. This is a ram. It has horns.” After several rejections, the narrator’s patience is exhausted and so he draws a box and said: “This is only his box. The sheep you asked for is inside”. The little prince’ face lights up and he replies: “this is exactly the way I wanted it!”

    This abstract of Saint-Exupery’ book The little Prince is the one which appears in the last scene of Akram Zaatari’s film Letter to a Refusing Pilot, the video-installation representative of Lebanese pavilion.

    This years the Biennale of Venice  has adopted an “anthropologic approach to the images study, especially focusing on imagination functions and the dominium of imaginary”.

    As the little prince embodies the spirit of wonder and the power of imagination, the artist Zaatari invites us to see through the locked box and explore the boundaries between past and present.

    The triggering event from which the reflections start, is the incident that occurred during 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon where an Israeli fighter pilot refused to carry out his commander’s order to destroy a public school in Saida. The facts are retraced through Zaatari documentary-film, where personal biography blurs with the life of a whole city and its inhabitants. Personal experience and life of a nation interact each other so closely as the artist asks himself if personal choices are merely projections of the canonical history that leads people and events.

    So, what about the individual? What is his role? Zaatari engages the visitors of the pavilion with this question, making use of a vintage theatre seat placed in the middle of the installation in front of a television, broadcasting a documentary of 1982 events. And, further, Zaatari sheds light on citizens disaffection towards the nation, felt as an entity far away from their own ethic, that imposes rules and boundaries on a land otherwise joined by a continuum of cultures.

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