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Six Israelis & One Palestinian



Lightjet print on
5-cm aluminum box edge
230 x 164 cm

This work has been commissioned for the 2010-11 Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar
as part of the exhibition Told / Untold / Retold curated by Sam Bardaouil & Till Fellrath

steve sabella mathaf

The Seven Thoughts that accompanied the show in 2010 are here

Installation shots from the 2010-11 Told / Untold / Retold group exhibition
Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha

DEUTSCHE WELLE - GUEST & STORY - Steve Sabella: Occupation is Like Rape - It Cannot be Justified
By Samah Altaweel
Interview of Steve Sabella (Arabic)

By Meagan Kelly Horsman
Independence Exhibition Catalogue (Meem Gallery in Dubai)
Independence Cataloague
The title invites the viewer to question the works: Independence as a state of being; are these figures independent, or do they lean on one another? Can one be both independent and dependent? This recalls Sabella’s Settlement: Six Israelis and One Palestinian (2008–10), exhibited at the inaugural Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art exhibition Told / Untold / Retold (2010), where the image of six standing Israeli men face the sole image of Sabella, demonstrating how the images and sets of figures can be interpreted as simultaneously oppositional and interdependent.

Steve Sabella - Photography 1997-2014
By Hubertus von Amelunxen
The semi-nakedness of the men and their prescribed position in front of a concrete wall in the middle of the image, as if for execution, reflect the helplessness on both sides. Naked except for their boxer shorts, they expose themselves to the camera’s shutter, their gaze directed at the lens, their arms hanging by their sides—no previous verdict, no previous execution. Yet the conflict is configured in the spatial confrontation: six Israelis hang close together on one side of the museum, one Palestinian, Steve Sabella himself, on the opposite side…

The six Israelis and one Palestinian could be standing at that almost eight-meter-high wall; it is behind them, they do not see it. The wall is the preclusion of negotiation and rapprochement, and to this day is a culmination of the settlement policy, the direction of which was formulated long before the foundation of the state of Israel.

"Stages of Transition. Visualizing Exile in the Work of Steve Sabella"
By Dorothea Schoene
Afterimage - The Journal of Media Arts & Cultural Criticism, 2012


In a 2009 commission for the opening of the Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar, the artist surprised viewers with an exceptional piece. The exhibition featured works of twenty- three contemporary artists with roots in the Middle East, who each proposed a different narrative of identity and history... Sabella’s contribution was again one of a self-investigative portrayal. He installed six large photographs of Israeli citizens on one wall, and a single photograph of himself centered on the opposite wall. The subjects are unarmed, half naked—yet in self-confident poses.

While again putting himself in the midst of the work’s narrative, this time he doesn’t operate with symbolic or abstract forms. Showing himself as outnumbered by Israelis directly critiques the political situation in Palestine, and showing all figures undressed down to their boxer shorts simultaneously points to the vulnerability of both sides. The installation forced visitors to walk between the two opposing walls, placing the viewer in the midst of the piece, as if taking part in an actual event. What links this work back to Sabella’s other series is again the importance of the title: “Settlement—Six Israelis & One Palestinian” (2008–10).



"Exodus and Back"
By Myrna Ayad
Canvas, 2011


In the same year, Sabella was commissioned to create a work for one of Doha’s mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art’s opening shows – the fantastic Told/Untold/Retold. Settlement: Six Israelis and One Palestinian, (now acquired by Mathaf) sought to address the basics: by getting six Israelis and himself to strip down to their underwear with Sabella on one wall and the others facing him, his provocative installation addresses the need to go back to the roots of the Palestinian - Israeli conflict. There are a number of facets to this work – the ratio of six israelis to one Palestinian reflects the demographics of israel and, as Sabella explains, has many connotations.

It signals, for example,“very charged numbers in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and how the Israelis are always threatened by the ‘one’ Palestinian who might set things off.” There is the idea of a collective that shapes the region, in which nations are treated collectively rather than taking into account the individuality of people. The installation thereby creates a visual unresolved tension, especially as there is no indication of who is winning – the one or the many. “The spectator who stands in the middle of the installation cannot see both sides simultaneously and must make a critical choice,” explains Sabella.



"A Smithsonian in the Sand. With the opening of Mathaf, the first Arab Museum of Modern Art, Qatar is racing to turn itself into the cultural hub of the Middle East."The Economist, 2010


“Told, Untold, Retold”, the third show, brings together work by 23 contemporary artists. Among the most interesting are Jerusalem-born Steve Sabella’s photographs of Israeli and Palestinian men hardly distinguishable in their boxer shorts and the paintings on paper by Marwan Sahmarani, a Lebanese painter who was inspired by a famous 16th-century engraving by Albrecht Dürer."


"Painting the Middle East with too Broad of a Brush?"
By Richard Holledge
Wall Street Journal , 2011

wall street journal

Steve Sabella's installation, "Settlement" (2010), has six Israelis opposite one Palestinian, all seven clad in underwear, facing each other with a neutral stare. Their eyes also meet the gaze of the viewer, making him a discomfited witness.


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

contemporary practices

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. The title informs us about their identity that would obviously be left unknown, since all the superstructures, and the accessories that give shape to the world displaying one’s identity, have been swept away...

With his work Sabella has been able to go beyond every cliché ; as he himself says, he got rid of all the "nostalgic layers that gave shape to many works realized in Israel and Palestine", in order to push himself on to a different border; not an emotional border, but a border of consciousness. “... We are confronting each other’s‘Otherness’—face-to-face, and right to the core. The borders whether mental or physical, might move aside and a dialogue of a different nature might take place



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

contemporary practices

Sabella creates an experience that questions the viewer, prodding thought on the very nature of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and on the reality of the collective versus the individual. Raising questions about the nature of how our minds work in the face of conflict, and how paranoia is induced and fear of the other evoked, through this work Sabella urges viewers to step back and reconsiders the single self: The self, separate from the battlefield of stereotypes and visual myth.



"SETTLEMENT - Six Israelis & One Palestinian"
International Gallerie Magazine, 2009

international gallerie

Convincing six Israelis to strip for him and stand in their underwear, Sabella creates an artwork that is uncommon in the region as it shifts from ubiquitous views of ‘Nostalgia’. Instead, it engages the viewer in a strong visual debate and thought.


"Von Angesicht zu Angesicht"
By Doerthe Engelcke
Zenith Magazine, 2009

zenith magazine