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I N   E X I L E


Lambda print mounted on aluminum
5-cm aluminum box edge
136 x 125 cm each

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in exile

Installation shots
in exile In Exile
Steve Sabella - In Exile at Fotofest Steve Sabella - In Exila at Fotofest Steve Sabella - In Exile at Fotofest
In Exile solo exhibition at Metroquadro Gallery, Rivoli, Italy (2010)
 exile print 4 in exile exile print

DEUTSCHE WELLE - GUEST & STORY - Steve Sabella: Occupation is Like Rape - It Cannot be Justified
By Samah Altaweel
Interview of Steve Sabella (Arabic)
Deutsche Welle
Deutsche Welle - The Guest and the Story

Re-constructing Dasein: The Works of Steve Sabella
By Charlotte Bank
Institute for Middle East Understanding
March 28, 2016
The works of Steve Sabella reflect similar concerns. A native of Old Jerusalem, that evercontested piece of land whose privilege (or curse) it is to be holy to the three main monotheistic faiths, Sabella has been on a relentless journey since he left his home town through the fragments of his own psyche, to paraphrase a sentence by Mourid Barghouti. A journey that has led him to finally come to terms with his state of perpetual alienation and even find the liberation that rootlessness can also offer. Steve Sabella has now reached the point to which Vilém Flusser refers in the following words, “Emigrés become free, not when they deny their lost homeland, but when they come to terms with it.” Since the collages of In Exile (2008), a series created in London one year after having left his home town, Sabella has been using large scale photographic collages to reflect on this exilic state of mind.

In the Wake of the Poetic
By Najat Rahman
Syracuse University Press
In the Wake of the Poetic
In Steve Sabella’s haunting work In Exile, images recurrently depict a somber but meticulously constructed exile. Each image seems to repeat and proliferate images of houses or apartments, as if they are settlements or homes artificially constructed and imposed. The images are imbued with the dark colors blue and gray, brown and black, as we see in the image In Exile 1. In In Exile 2 spaces are surrounded with barbed wired. As Sabella once proclaimed, “I stitch my wounds with barbed wire.” The “reconstitution” of self is paradoxically one of violent suturing that has not been able to rid reality of barbed wires, at home or in exile, but remains liberatory. With light emanating from the inside of these interiors at night, the images are not without a sense of hope. Despite the dark gray, blue, and black, the flitter of interior light suggests movement nonetheless, perhaps a breakthrough from all limitations.

The Harrowed Hands of Palestine
By Sarah Irving
Electronic Intifada
November 2, 2015
Electronic Intifada

Later sequences of work such as “In Exile” (2008), “In Transition” (2010), “Euphoria” (2010), “and “Sinopia” (2014) document Sabella’s increasing fascination with abstracting his photographs, layering and repeating images to create atmospheric but less immediately readable pieces. Some involve direct and challenging imagery — razor wire and brutal metal shapes — while others have a much more tender, personal feel. The abstractness, though, creates even here a sense of distance, as if a question is being posed. The viewer is also challenged by the complex relationship of aesthetic with content. In abstracting his images, Sabella makes barbed wire and the harsh metal technologies of exclusion and social violence somehow beautiful. Where do aesthetics and ethics meet in such a picture?


By Dorothea Schoene
Journal for Palestine Studies
Summer 2015
Journal of Palestine Studies
When Boullata encountered the photographer’s early work in 2002 for the first time, Sabella was still into realistic portrayals of the local landscape, with a good eye for meaningful and symbolically charged details. By 2007, he had created his first abstract series, which he entitled In Exile. Two years after leaving his home city and country, the artist had given his sentiment of estrangement and alienation a powerful visual translation. While there was no focal point in these new series, the clear attempt to structure and compose as if to bring order into a photographic world still remained, which was and is so closely linked to Sabella’s own biography.

Book of the Month: Steve Sabella - Photography 1997-2014
This Week in Palestine
April 2015
This Week In Palestine
Sabella’s body of work is presented chronologically, and the texts and contextual images are interspersed within the series. Here viewers have the full visual journey at their fingertips and can enjoy the evolution of form and content over time. Politically hard-hitting works such as Settlement – Six Israelis & One Palestinian and In Exile mix with the sensitivity present in Cécile Elise Sabella and the charged aesthetic experience of Independence. The artist has discovered a means of conveying a multitude of nuanced visual experiences through work that is diverse and never ceases to captivate.

Steve Sabella, “My Art Is Not About Palestine! It’s About My Life.”
By Khelil Bouarrouj
Palestine Square - The Blog of the Institute for Palestine Studies
March 6, 2015
Palestine Sqaure


In Conversation with Steve Sabella

By Madeline Yale Preston
Independence Exhibition Catalogue - Meem Gallery, Dubai

Madeline Yale Preston: Several of your series’ titles – In Exile, Metamorphosis, Euphoria, Beyond Euphoria, to name a few – suggest states of being that are interconnected in sum. One interpretation is that these ‘states’ are autobiographical, referring to your own evolutionary psychological framework, largely in response to living in occupied Jerusalem for the majority of your life. The title Independence – also a state of being – is a leading one. What is it independence from?

Steve Sabella: In my catalogue essay for the
Archaeology of the Future exhibition in Verona (October 2014), I ask whether we can break ourselves free from our image. In my work I explore decoding fixed systems that are constantly at work to entrap people in bordered spaces. Over time this investigation led me to see the bigger picture. Each series I have created began with a search of how to explore and exit the state of mind I was living in. I transformed this state into a visual dilemma or a question, which, once solved, would lead me to a new state with a new visual challenge. Looking back at my work, I see that I was unfolding visual palimpsests that explore the multiple layers of my past, and the influence perception had on my ‘reality’. Today my images gain their independence from my narrative. The narrative might still be there, but it will unfold itself in a different way. There are hidden layers in images that change perception all the time. It is time to engage further in the process of looking, where meaning resides only in the mind of the viewer.



Free-Falling Into the Future

By Madeline Yale Preston
Independence Exhibition Catalogue - Meem Gallery, Dubai (2014)

Sabella has freed himself from the psychological entrapment of exiled displacement. He describes this achievement as akin to, ‘dancing in the air, the core ignited … It’s a spark. But to do that, I had to break my bones, to become more malleable to change.’8 A visualization of this process is first apparent in his series In Exile (2008), where the artist cathartically destroyed and assembled symbols of entry and exit. While it is not necessarily a sequential narration towards the attainment of mental freedom...


Steve Sabella: An Encounter
By Karin Adrian von Roques
Archeology of the Future Exhibition Catalogue (The International Center of Photography Scavi Scaligeri in Verona)
Archaeology of the Future Catalogue
Steve’s window pieces are an example of his artistic approach, how he studies images and finds loopholes where he can jump from one dimension to another. The windows are imagined windows or images of windows that he perceived in his imagination.

Discoveries of a Mental Journey
By Beatrice Benedetti
Archeology of the Future Exhibition Catalogue - The International Center of Photography Scavi Scaligeri in collaboration with Boxart Gallery, Verona (2014)
Archaeology of the Future Catalogue
Sabella’s collages may appear like Cubist images, deconstructed and reconstructed, from the three-dimensionality of the “real” to the two dimensionality of photography. And this takes us back to Bergson, not coincidentally the theoretician of Cubism, for whom the “real” as applied to time does not coincide with scientific measurement of it, but rather with a subjective stream in which any clear distinction between past and present is lost.

Steve Sabella - Photography 1997-2014
By Hubertus Von Amelunxen

In Exile (2008) is a cut through the place, a cut in the place, and a clear decision. The series consists of five, large-format almost square color images. Only when the viewer comes close to the images does a concrete figure emerge from the oscillating pattern of dislocated, upended, or bent fragments. The five images share the morphology of dislocated fragments shaken into an order, the ontological foundation of the place seen from an intermediate space and cast off… In Exile exhibits hermetic structures, blind windows, protrusions of disappointed transparency...

And like In Exile and Euphoria, a rhythmic movement is at work in the images; now an arabesque sweep moving across the image, now a clearly contrapuntal arrangement, so that the images correspond to an almost musical writing, a score or notation.


By Kamal Boullata
Steve Sabella - Photography 1997-2014

In this series Sabella shifted from what Susan Sontag calls “a photographic way of seeing” to one of cubistic imagining. As such, he shot multiple images of fenestrations and of his daughter by a window, taken from different angles. Each shot ends up like a mere unit within a larger composition that interlaces the different shots in a tessellation of a monochromatic pattern, which recalls the structuring of the arabesque.



Review: Fragments

By Sheyma Buali
Harper's Bazaar Art Arabia
harpers bazaare
Through Berloni Gallery’s floor-to-ceiling windows, Steve Sabella’s large-scale photographs appeared like fragments, a fitting title for this four-part retrospective of the Palestinian artist’s work. Closer inspection of Exile (2008), Sabella’s splintered mosaics of images, reveals windows that are open, closed, opaque or protected by cages. The most striking of all depicts Cecile, the artist’s daughter, looking through her window in different directions as images of her are cut up, mirrored and repeated. This series opened the exhibition and set the tone for the fractured feelings, frustration and obstructions that Sabella narrates through his photographs.

Stages of Transition - Visualizing Exile in the Work of Steve Sabella
By Dorothea Schoene
Afterimage - The Journal of Media Arts & Cultural Criticism
If we acknowledge that none of Sabella’s collage elements are placed by coincidence, we accept at the same time a carefully choreographed invitation to read and contemplate. Curiously, none of the pieces from his series related to exile seem to be properly framed on the sides, bottom, or top—they may as well be details from a much larger piece. So if neither size, nor iconography, nor visual narrative within the arrangement, nor order of segments or parts matters, then what does? The title, the date (in relation to the artist’s own biography as well as historical and political events he may be affected by and consciously respond to), and the message as a portrait of the artist’s inner state of being all take on new significance.

Exodus and Back
By Myrna Ayad
Somehow, as the saying goes, ‘It’s got to get worse to get better’, and Sabella’s continued art practice made a positive impact on his psyche. In short, art seemed to have rehabilitated him and In Exile was born. The series deals with fragments and embodies Sabella’s attempt at ‘picking up the pieces’ of his self. Featuring spliced windows, In Exile’s subject matter metaphorically takes on themes of entry and exit, openings and closings, inside and outside. He was relieved, but unaware of what would come next until a chance discussion with a friend in dubai in 2010 became the proverbial Pandora’s Box and Boom!

By Hossein Amirsadeghi, Nada Shabout & Salwa Mikdadi
Published by Thames & Hudson
New Vision
One of the most important themes running throughout all of Sabella’s work is the concept of exile, the result of growing up in a divided city such as Jerusalem: ‘As far as I remember I always felt out of place in my city of birth. Alienation was surrounding me. Kamal Boullata [another Jerusalem artist] remarked...how I function like an artist in exile even though I lived in my city of birth. It took me a few years to understand the meaning of his words. I was not “physically” in exile. It was Jerusalem that was exiled and hence...all those who lived in it were in exile.’

Contemporary Art Practices - Magazine Cover featuring In Exile
Volume VI (2009)
Contemporary Practices

In Exile at Christie's Auction
International Modern and Contemporary Art (Dubai)
April 27, 2010

Steve Sabella - The Journey of Artistic Interrogation and Introspection
By Yasmin El Rashidi
Contemporary Practices Journal, Volume VI, 2010
Contemporary Practices
Palestinian-born artist Steve Sabella could well be a younger, more alternative, more artistic version of the late Edward Said. Like the literary exile who lived in an enclave of a world he had created for himself on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, surrounded and consumed and embedded in the construct of texts that deconstructed the reality he struggled with, Sabella is one who lives in an equal state of alienation – confined to an exile that transcends place: London, and rather is contained in the bounds of his mind. A mind that like Said’s did deconstructs only to rebuild again, but in this case, using a terminology of visual narratives.

Steve Sabella
By Martina Corgnati
Contemporary Practices Journal, VI, 2010

Contemporary Practices

From 1997 on, the images, series and projects of Steve Sabella are periscopes drowned in the invisible of human condition, the uncanny and the search for a meaning; an “exile” that starts as physical and contingent and ends becoming mental, a category of the soul that needs an answer, or a series of answers from each one of us; answers that change – evolve during a lifetime. So, Sabella raised the horizon to his own eyelevel: From a contingent one to a universal one, escaping every rhetoric, though not losing his identity as an artist, but on the contrary, conquering it.


Territory in Exile - Exile of Identity
By Stéphanie Ravel
L'Agenda Magazine


Steve Sabella is reworking the image of Palestinian art. Conceptual and psychological, his photomontage series In Exile challenges the traditional approach to the Palestinian question.


Steve Sabella: In Exile
By Charlotte Bank
Nafas Art Magazine - Universe in Universe


Physical exile in London followed mental exile in 2007. There, his artistic grappling with the omnipresent feelings of alienation took on a new, more complex shape. The windows shown from multiple perspectives in the works of In Exile are views from the place where the artist lives. The symbolism here is intentionally many-layered. The windows provide prospects and hope, seeming to permit the widest variety of angles of view, but still remain closed and keep the viewer outside, like an uninvolved observer. Life plays out in front of the window, but access to it is blocked. Here the artist seems a captive of the eternal search for himself in the mosaic of his mental landscape. He draws the viewer into disturbing views and robs him of balance and security. He deconstructs the familiar in order to assemble it anew, thereby creating a new constellation of reality that establishes parallels to the experiences of a never-ending exile.

Read on the Nafas website

Steve Sabella in Exile - Conversation with the Artist
By Sara Rossino (Italian & English)
Exhibition Catalogue published by the Metroquadro Gallery in Rivoli, Turin - May, 2010

The first time you find yourself in front of the artworks which make up the In Exile series by Steve Sabella, you have a strange feeling of familiarity. Not with regards to the places which are featured in the images, fragments of a subjective reality which is alien to the viewer, details of the everyday London life which the artist has been living with his family for the past three years since he left the Old City of Jerusalem. These shards of captured memories, deconstructed and reconstructed, are intimate to Sabella because they belong to his daily dimension, but are distant from the spectator, lacking a familiar or recognizable reference, extracted from an anonymous anywhere.

sabella - sara rossino review


Reflections on Palestine - The Empty Quarter Dubai
By Nyree Barrett
Time Out Dubai

Time Out Dubai

His message in a nutshell: ‘Alienation is the new world syndrome.’ Steve Sabella’s images are without horizon: the abstract landscapes layer many images of one window over each other hundreds or thousands of times. It took Sabella a year to create five pieces using this process, and the result is a disorientating but visually arresting new landscape with no sky and no respite.


Steve Sabella - I am From Jerusalem
By Christa Paula
Exhibition Review - The Empty Quarter Gallery in Dubai

Between 2008 and 2009, Sabella created his most critically acclaimed artworks to date: In Exile (2008) and Settlement - Six Israelis and One Palestinian (2008-2011). Along with Mentalopia (2007) and Cecile Elise Sabella (2008) they form part of his search for meaning in exile.


Reconstructing Deconstruction
By Gerhard Charles Rump
Contemporary Art Practices Journal, Volume V, 2009

Contemporary Practices

Sabella serializes different single images to form a kind of overall structured image, a super-image. The function of the super-image is broader and bigger than that of the individual images it is composed of. His metaphor of the city (of Jerusalem) is that of windows or window-fronts or parts of house- facades. There is light coming from within, and the tilting and mirroring (in symmetries) adds dynamism to the super-image thus created.


Steve Sabella in Conversation with Sara Rossino
By Sara Rossino
The Changing Room exhibition catalogue, curated by Aida Eltorie

I have noticed that In Exile (2008), adopts a square format, Euphoria (2010) is more a rectangle, and Beyond Euphoria (2011) looks panoramic. How do you decide the size and shape? What are your motives?

The geometry of In Exile was solid, stuck in its own space, euphoria was circular, and beyond had to be scattered, spread, hundreds of small details, stories, scattered in the open galaxy where I reside now. There these fragments embarked on a new odyssey. Since then, I have been out of earth and will try to remain there until my disturbia visits me again.