The Harrowed Hands of Palestine


Electronic Intifada
By Sarah Irving
November 2, 2015


“Settlement: Six Israelis and One Palestinian,” by contrast, is more confrontational and combative in its message. On one side of a gallery stand six men wearing only their underwear, their backs to a concrete wall very much like the one built by Israel in the occupied West Bank. On the other side stands a lone man in similar clothing and against a similar setting.


They all look similar — in a state of undress, there is little to differentiate one from another. What is their relationship to the wall? To be confined by it? Protected by it? To guard it? What rights does each one have, and how and why might such similar figures be so categorically divided?


View on the Electronic Intifada website

Book of the Month: Steve Sabella – Photography 1997-2014


This Week In Palestine
April 2015


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.


Read on This Week In Palestine website 



Independence Exhibition Catalogue, Meem Gallery, Dubai
By Meagan Kelly Horsman


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.



Full catalogue PDF

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.


Read excerpts, reviews and view photos of the monograph
order on the Hatje Cantz website

Stages of Transition – Visualizing Exile in the Work of Steve Sabella


Afterimage – The Journal of Media Arts & Culture

By Dorothea Schoene
April 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
November 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.



Palestinian Photographer Steve Sabella Declares Independence through Mental Images – Book Review


Art Radar

By Lisa Pollman

September 12, 2014


Born in Jerusalem, Steve Sabella is a photographer whose portfolio depicts the challenges and struggles of the human condition in familiar yet abstract forms. As a Palestinian visual artist who has lived both under occupation and in exile, Sabella’s work brings into focus a sharp and sometimes uncomfortable view of contemporary life in the 21st century in a way that begs reflection by the viewer.


Throughout the book, Sabella’s images take us from one world to another. His fresh, early work leads to the pivotal series “Six Israelis and One Palestinian” and “Metamorphosis”, ending with the painterly, rich series “38 days of re-collection” and “Sinopia”. Sabella’s monograph stands as one of the very few records for those interested in learning more about contemporary art and artists from the Middle East to peruse and study.



view on Art Radar


Steve Sabella – I am From Jerusalem


Exhibition Catalogue – The Empty Quarter Gallery, Dubai

By Christa Paula
May 2011


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… Both Six Israelis and One Palestinian and Cecile Elise Sabella mandate the acknowledgment of the individual as an autonomous being worthy of recognition. 



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

December 29, 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.



View on The Economist website

Painting the Middle East with too Broad of a Brush?


Wall Street Journal

By Richard Holledge
March 2, 2011


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.



View on The Wall Street Journal website 

Steve Sabella


Contemporary Practices Journal, Volume VI

By Martina Corgnati



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


Contemporary Practices Journal, Volume VI

By Yasmin El Rashidi



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



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.



Face to Face 


Zenith Magazine
By Doerthe Engelcke


In terms of numbers 6:1, what do they signify?

The work is highly coded. One of the obvious symbols is the number 6 which might remind people of the six million Jews killed during the Holocaust.


More complicated though is the question of survival that haunts Israelis and Palestinians. The installation, as a reminder entails the printing of life size images of six Israelis on one side and the

image of the Palestinian directly opposite and facing them. One of the participating Israelis indicated that people might perceive the work as a shooting range. The installation will create a visual unresolved tension (especially because of the uneven number) that questions survival aspects between Palestinians and Israelis.

The numbers might also trigger the concept of the collective that shapes the region, where nations are treated collectively rather than taking into account the individuality of people.


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