What happens to the physical evidence of atrocity and genocide and how does it affect our understanding of the often beautiful, landscapes into which the bodies of the victims disappear?
At sunrise and sunset, when the sun is low in the sky, the slanting light reveals hidden evidence of places where human activity has taken place. Usually invisible or unnoticed at ground level, the outlines of these sites can be seen from the air, thrown into relief by long shadows.
Known to archaeologists as ‘shadow sites’, such phenomena, captured by aerial photography, are one of the main sources of inspiration for Jannane Al-Ani’s recent work. Her project drove her to research the photographic archives of the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC where she discovered the unpublished and remarkably beautiful aerial reconnaissance photographs of the Western Front taken by Edward Steichen during the World War I. She also spent her time in the archives of the Foundation Arabe pour l’Image in Beirut, examining the work of the early pioneers of aerial photography in the region, which led her to investigate the discipline of aerial archaeology. As Al-Ani Jannane explains part of the appeal of using dual technologies of flight and photography in this project lays in the possibility of the landscape itself exposing signs of survival and loss and becoming the bearer of particularly resilient and recurring memories.
The work of the London-based Iraqi-born artist Jannane Al-Ani, engages with the landscapes of the Middle East, real and imagined and explore the long standing 19th century Orientalist stereotype of the Middle Eastern landscape, namely the notion of an exotic largely unoccupied space; a notion which continues to permeate Western media’s representations of the Arab world today. The ongoing project The Aesthetics of Disappearance: a land without people, shot in the south of Jordan, explores the disappearance of the body pointing out that the disappearance of civilians in times of war is an universal phenomenon and it occurred across the Middle East time by time.
Al-Ani investigated the destruction of art and architecture for ideological, religious and political reasons and the problems inherent in the representation of the body. She explored the issue of idolatry from as far back as the Reformation in Britain to the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban in Afghanistan and the recent demolition of buildings associated with the prophet Mohammed by the current Saudi Arabian government.
Al-Ani investigated the destruction of art and architecture for ideological, religious and political reasons and the problems inherent in iconoclasm. Her research into these issues has taken her from the Reformation in Britain, the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban in Afghanistan and the recent demolition of buildings associated with the prophet Mohammed by the current Saudi Arabian government.
Jananne Al-Ani examined how personal and political narratives relate to contested landscapes, in particular those burdened with conflicting signification and the way in which confession, in both in the religious sense and the confessional mode in contemporary art practice, is adopted as a means of confronting and coming to terms with these events. Her interests in the way historic visual material such as the archive informs and influences the way in which we understand and represent the present, shapes her work and show how the tension between documentary and fiction can be resolved in a work of art.