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I D E N T I T Y

2002

Color transparency
70 x 50 cm

 
 
   
identity
 
 
 
"As a visual artist growing up in Jerusalem, Sabella seems to have been intuitively aware of the pitfalls of photographing it. Sensing how photography has been used to contribute to the mythmaking around him, this internal exile goes out into the open, beyond the city walls, to find his freedom between the rocks and the sky. The city that from time immemorial was considered a bridge between heaven and earth may be absent in Sabella’s photographs, but everything in them indicates how, in solitude, the native photographer rebuilt his own Jerusalem."
 
"Jerusalem in the Heart Two Urban Artists in Exile" By Kamal Boullata, Jerusalem Quarterly File, 20, 2004.
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childhood memories of steve sabella
identity of steve sabella
death
     
 
I saw elements that could be mistaken for being part of nature. Left behind, after time one takes it for granted that they belong. But they do not belong; they are simply not made of the same structure
 
     
     
     
     
jericho
fence
Palestinian landscpae

 

holy land stones
Palestinian landscapes
   
   
   
   
Sabella & Identity
ladder and blue sky
     
dead sea salts
dead sea
sky
     
     
     
     

 
 
This project was one of the winners of the Young Artist Award in Palestine in 2002. It is a biannual competition organized by A.M. Qattan Foundation. Jury included artist Kamal Boullata who has influenced Sabella's perception of life and art, especially in his artwork Jerusalem in Exile (2006).
 
 
 

 
 
REVIEWS
 
 
 
Re-constructing Dasein: The Works of Steve Sabella
By Charlotte Bank
Institute for Middle East Understanding
March 28, 2016
 
IMEU
 
But even before physically leaving Jerusalem, his fellow Jerusalemite and artist, Kamal Boullata, saw traces of the anxiety of exile in Sabella’s work. The images in the series Identity (2002) which inspired Boullata’s remarks are taken in and around Jerusalem; however, they never show us the city as such, but rather fragments of the sky, rocks, fields and other open spaces. In this city, where space is so contested and every inch laden with symbolism, Sabella has sought out his own vision of his city, at once seeking an escape and a coming back, piecing together those fragments that offer a space to breathe, far from the confinements of man-made walls.
 
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Steve Sabella - Photography 1997-2014
By Hubertus von Amelunxen
 
Monograph
 
Between 1997 and 2003 Sabella photographed three series, Search (1997), Identity (2002), and End of Days (2003): from the alienated impression of black-and-white nature, the walling in of things in Search, to the colorful expanses of the landscape, the deserts, cliffs, and furrowed fields in Identity and to the opening to abstraction initiated through a reversal of the light in End of Days. “To be a work means to set up a world,” Heidegger writes, and this building and unbuilding accompany Sabella’s work.
 

 
 
 

Exodus and Back
By Myrna Ayad
Canvas, 2011

In 2002, Sabella presented his Identity series on landscapes to the Qattan foundation’s young artist award, and won. One of the judges, Kamal Boullata (Canvas 4.3), interrogated Sabella’s supposed illustration of Jerusalem with no evidence of the city.“ I simply replied,‘do I have to photograph Jerusalem to talk about her?’ and suddenly Kamal beamed and said, ‘Bravo! That’s exactly what i want to hear!” laughs Sabella. Having been given such an accolade, but more importantly, being ‘seen’ by a fellow Palestinian artist, gave Sabella the impetus to question further.

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Steve Sabella - I am From Jerusalem
By Christa Paula
Euphoria & Beyond Exhibition Catalogue, The Empty Quarter Gallery in Dubai, 2011

It has been noted that, in contrast to the older generation of Palestinian artists, the young contemporaries have opted to avoid the pitfalls of overtly political image production. Sabella’s first three series (Search 1997, Identity 2002, End of Days 2003) do not show Jerusalem. Instead they steer the viewer into depopulated landscapes beyond its city walls, offering glimpses of harsh beauty and superficially integrated alien objects. Light, in different spectra, is significant and is utilized to create an imaginary reality, a promise of relief in a world beyond the visible.

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Steve Sabella - The Journey of Artistic Interrogation and Introspection
By Yasmin El Rashidi
Contemporary Practices, Volume VI, 2010


The result of being born into a culture with this identity that was formed with perhaps the malfunction of creating difference rather than sameness, was the foundation for a mind and voice that had scope to sculpt itself even further in its deviation from the norm. “Monks go out into the desert, in isolation, to lose their identity,” Sabella says. “I decided to lose mine, and become a stranger only to myself.” ... With each of Sabella’s projects came an exploration of one component of a deconstructed self-in- reconstruction. In his earlier series of works, Search (1997), Identity (2002), End of Days (2003) we see a younger artist hit hard by a reality of existential displacement, who appropriately, begins to search for other worlds, other realities, other vignettes of existence that may help, ultimately, with the construction for himself of something new. Exploring elements, landscapes, horizons, and fragmented details of tangible existence, Sabella sought to transcend what had been turned through the media into the visual myth he was meant to call home.

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

Sabella says: “Ironically, my first artwork, which was called Search, was consciously shifting away from all labels and categorizations. It was questioning the loss of identity. In this new project, ironically, it emphasizes identity but does so in a critical and provocative way.” His latest project called Settlement – Six Israelis & One Palestinian. The title itself is problematic, and the problem grows when the viewer finds himself in the middle of a narrow gap between two walls, surrounded by the image of two concrete walls, and in front of them the life size pictures of six men (on one side) and another (on the other side), all wearing just underpants.

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Jerusalem in the Heart Two Urban Artists in Exile
By Kamal Boullata
Jerusalem Quarterly File, Issue 20, 2004

The city considered a bridge between heaven and earth may be absent in Sabella's photographs, but everything in these frames indicates the manner by which this native photographer has rebuilt his own Jerusalem. Not unlike the photographs of Ra'ad, which to an outsider may have resembled those of ethnically-oriented photographers of his time, Sabella's crisp work of sky and rocks resembles work found among professional photographers anywhere else on the globe. And yet, it is in Sabella's conscious avoidance of photographing Jerusalem that the visual artist has managed to recreate the universality of a place with which he identifies. In that respect, his search for his true self may be likened to those monks who, drawn by Jerusalem, came from distant lands only to spend the rest of their lives in bare and desolate landscapes. Only there could Sabella find a Jerusalem where he might breathe fresh air.

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