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Lambda print on diasec
70 x 62 cm

Watch Exit
as seen in the Archaeology of the Future solo exhibition at the
International Center for Photography Scavi Scaligeri in Verona, Italy (2014)



steve sabella
elderly hands
body art
steve sabella self portrait
hand statues
sickness art
hand marks
hand with the pearl ring
hand art
human body

Watch a short documentary on Exit by IkonoTV

Installation Shots
Layers Layers Layers

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

Some of the most viscerally disturbing pictures in the book are to be found in the 2006 sequence titled “Exit.” This is made up of photographs of the backs of many different hands and wrists. All belong to elderly people; the skin is almost translucent, many seem bruised or withered and some are gnarled with arthritis. The title of the work is ambiguous; is the “exit” the extremity of the body, the ends of the fingers? Or the apparently imminent exit from life? But the images are also fascinating; each hand, on examination, implying so many tales of work, touch, love, injury, beauty and pain.


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
Sabella left Jerusalem for London in 2007 and later relocated to Berlin, where he currently resides. Prior to his physical exile, he exhibited the 2006 series Exit.
Palestine Sqaure

New Constellations for Steve Sabella
It was a busy year for Berlin-based Palestinian artist Steve Sabella, with 2014 seeing four exhibitions and a monograph (Steve Sabella: Photography 1997–2014 by Hatje Cantz)... Layers (21 September–21 October) at CAP Kuwait featured the new series Independence (2013) and 38 Days Of Re-Collection (2014) alongside Metamorphosis (2012) and Exit (2006) alongside a book launch on the opening night.

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
The site-specific short-circuiting of space and time ends with Exit, the most recent series in the show, even though it is dated 2006. The way out quite probably leads towards a new beginning, pointed out by elderly, curved hands that fade one into the other, once again telling of the never-ending march of existence, which corrupts both body and buildings but strengthens human perception.


Beyond Palestine
By Malu Halasa

Layers Exhibition Catalogue - Contemporary Art Platform (CAP), Kuwait (2014)


A single hand appears on a black background, the left or right one, usually craggy or mottled with age. Some sport a wedding ring worn for perhaps over sixty years. The fingers are laid flat, open, bunched up or gnarled like the branches of a great oak tree. One hand displays badly painted fingernails as if the eyes of the owner had difficulty seeing what she was doing. The images are disturbing yet strangely comforting at the same time. They are the delicate bruised hands of survivors. Exit (2006) immediately begs the question: whom do these hands belong to – Palestinians, Jews or both. Or does it really matter?


By Abed Al Kadiri

Layers Exhibition Catalogue - Contemporary Art Platform (CAP), Kuwait (2014)


In Exit (2006) people’s hands become human maps, the tissue of their skin delineating their journeys. These people built their civilization's landmarks with these hands, in a country with a clear identity and significant cultural and historical heritage. These landmarks became the veins that Steve dissects with his camera, metaphors for the streets that he once walked through. Whether they have departed or are still alive, these people, regardless where they come from, have their Palestinian identities woven into their skin.


Steve Sabella - Photography 1997-2014
By Hubertus von Amelunxen

With the Exit cycle Sabella had metaphorically left his native place, his place of origin—the “unspeakable home,” Samuel Beckett writes in the libretto poem for Morton Feldman’s 1977 opera, Neither. In Exit the tissue of the hand and the marks of life left by time seem like superimpositions, layers. The hands have reached for life; as bodies they have become places of history, places of memory, there before our eyes in the image, severed from everything. The mark on the skin resembles the faded tattoo evoked by Tarafa Ibn al-‘Abd that has left behind a memory of love. Bodies are overwritten with their history and, like a palimpsest, preserve the traces that are gradually deposited and reappear, depending on the question asked of them and the situation...

The three cycles created between 2004 and 2014
[Exit, Till the End and 38 Days of Re-collection] have an archaeological and anthropological dimension. Just as the hands in Exit resemble an inventory and a museum presentation of human fragments, the two other cycles also resemble careful removals of living circumstances, residues, at particular historically verifiable times.



Stages of Transition, Visualizing Exile in the Work of Steve Sabella
By Dorothea Shoene


In 2006, he began a consecutive series of photographic works to document his experience of exile in its various stages of adjustment and emotional perception, using two disparate forms to address this issue. One, entitled Exit (2006), is a series of hands—aged, twisted, without any further identity—that paralleled Sabella’s own state of mind and feelings of alienation and estrangement right before his departure from Palestine.


Exodus and Back
By Myrna Ayad


"I didn’t leave Jerusalem, she left me," but before this ‘departure’, Sabella created his Exit series – a likely nod to his impending physical exodus, but also reflective of a whirling mental vortex that was about to arrive. It was the first time a human element – hands – made their way into his body of work and just as deformed, twisted, excruciating - looking and agonising as those hands appear, so too Sabella felt. “I became consciously aware that I had lost my centre, my point of origin,” he explains, “and it was here that the physical space [Jerusalem] meant nothing to me.” London didn’t help Sabella – her “lack of architectural harmony” made him feel all the more alienated and he sunk into a bottom - less pit of deliberation.


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

sabella - sara rossino review

SR: What do you mean when you refer to “exilic landscapes” in your Exit hand artwork? I like the expression very much and would like you to comment on it.

SS: "When I discovered my city of birth disappeared and went into exile, I was lost or entrapped in my immediate space – my city. I started perceiving the world in a very harsh way. I had no where to go and I was on the edge of total physical and mental collapse. I found myself walking on harsh foreign lands. My immediate space was shattered and I wanted to convey to the world the nature and form of the new harsh ground I am standing on. This ground or land was the land I was exiled to."


Steve Sabella - The Journey of Artistic Interrogation and Introspection
Retrospective Review by Yasmin El Rashidi
Contemporary Practices Journal, VI, 2010

Contemporary Practices

The result, Exit (2006), his series of images of hands, speaks for itself of the pain of a landscape of both geography and life afflicted in similar ways to Jerusalem itself, with the ravages of battles that extend beyond the symbolic battlefield of war. Exit was in many ways his attempt to give a visual form to the cumulative experiences of his life, and the result, which makes one cringe, is haunting. These hands were the landscape of his exile.


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

In 2007 Sabella left Jerusalem for further studies abroad. Before his departure, however, he prepared Exit, a disturbing photographic sequence of aged hands, gnarled and discoloured by time to which he refers as his ‘exilic landscapes.’ While for the first time, this artwork specifically makes use of the human body, it also intimates a yearning for re-connection, a release from mental exile. Perhaps it is ironic, or simply human, that he was to achieve this only once he entered the Diaspora, that is, after he physically left home.