Have a Pleasant Stay! A multi-media installation. 200x210cm diameter. Print on polyester, metal rings, electric motor and sound. It was exhibited at Sharjah Biennial 09, Sharjah Art Foundation, 2009.
A space for reflection and empathy, a visual and physical metaphor of the concept of suffocation and imprisonment. This atmosphere reflects the feeling of the Palestinians who are living inside their own land which is transformed in a huge prison.
One of the numerous places which has suffered a radical and dramatic transformation is between Ramallah and Jerusalem; where the check point of Qalandia has been transformed into an illegal frontier, separating completely Jerusalem from the rest of Palestinian cities and villages.
Just entering this claustrophobic space, I am always shocked and surprised of this giant net of metallic bars of all sizes and forms and lots of turnstile doos, one after the other, forming a huge thick tissue of horizontal and vertical lines, creating a heavy atmosphere, where the visibility is minimum and no air to breath.
Samira Badran. Artist Statement
Peut-être parce que c’était l’étape suivante de on voyage, la pièce à mes yeux la plus terrifiante a étéHave a pleasant stay de la Palestinienne Samira Badran. ‘Have a pleasant stay’ est l’inscription qu’on trouve en passant les checkpoints israéliens en Palestine, après les couloirs grillagés, les tourniquets télécommandés, les fouilles et les contrôles, quand on ne vous refoule pas. Ici, deux cylindres tournant sur eux-mêmes occupent l’espace, affirment une présence spatiale qui pourrait évoquer Jeppe Hein : ici aussi, on se glisse à l’intérieur, on ressent l’angoisse du vide, du vertige, mais ici on n’est pas au centre d’un panoptique, on est prisonnier, les parois sont faites de barreaux, la délivrance est un soulagement. Avec une grande économie de moyens, Samira Badran a su réaliser une oeuvre symbolique minimale très forte.
I wondered as I stood before Samira Badran’s work Have a Pleasant Stay! whether my body was experiencing the memory of the Qalandia checkpoint–of passing through turnstiles whose opening and revolving are controlled by soldiers nestled deep behind glass windows, after a humiliating wait in long lines, my eyes staring at that sign, “We wish you a pleasant stay”–or whether my body was innocent of that. For how could these flimsy plastic columns do what they were doing to me all the way here in Sharjah?
“The sound of the stiles squeaking was supposed to play along with the exhibit, but unfortunately the machine isn’t working, Samira told me.
But I didn’t see any need for a reminder of the squeaking of the stiles,because my body was able to invoke the jostling people, the flowing of time in beads of sweat. Each person waiting in front of the turnstiles had his reason for jostling towards them just as I did, but I did not push. I simply refused to submit to the Israeli girl soldier that determined when the stiles opened and turned, and when they locked again.
I remembered how I had waited one day for more than an hour without moving a single step towards the turnstile. In exchange for a little money, my suitcase had gone ahead of me thanks to a boy from the Qalandya refugee camp who had managed to find work for himself in this passageway.
Then I got stuck in an awful crowd. I knew that I couldn’t compete in it. My one concern was to get my suitcase back which in the end I did, by paying another boy ten shekels to fetch it. I then went back home and took a taxi that looped on a long, treacherous route that took more than an hour and a half to get around that checkpoint, a journey that should normally take no more than a minute. I remembered my oath to myself never to return to Qalandya as long as those turnstiles remained, even if it meant sacrificing seeing those I love. How could someone who lacked my experience, or the daily Palestinian experience of crossing Qalandya and all the other checkpoints, be affected by this art project in the way that I was?” You have to stand inside — it’s a special experience,” I said to a foreign girl staring at the exhibit. She walked in, and stood inside for a moment, then came out. I saw her smiling. I don’t know if she felt what I felt.
Remembering, Mahmoud Abu Hashhash.
SHARJAH BIENNIAL 9-Book 2
CO-Published by Sharjah art foundation and Bidoun 2010