Chris Kennedy

“Twenty-Eight Nights and a Poem,” by Akram Zaatari. April 2, 2016

Twenty-Eight Nights and a Poem
dir. Akram Zaatari | Lebanon 2015 | 105 min. | TK video

In both his video work and his role as a co-founder of the Arab Image Foundation (an archive of photo- based research which was launched around the same time that he began making artist videos in 1997), Akram Zaatari explores how photography shapes cultural identity and representation—an issue that is particularly charged in the war-torn recent history of his native Lebanon, fraught as it is with ideological and regional tensions. The primary focus of Zaatari’s feature-length video Twenty- Eight Nights and a Poem is the Studio Shehrazade in the artist’s hometown of Saida, which has been owned and run by Hashem el Madani since the 1940s. In addition to the traditional posed photographs he created within the studio, Madani would also roam the streets with his 35mm still camera, taking candid portraits of daily life in the city. Over the decades, Madani’s portraits both in and out of the studio have become a catalogue of the way that a visual culture is formed, the changes in the conventions of posing and framing over time functioning as indexes of cultural adaptation. Deftly extrapolating from these subtle visual cues and gradually incorporating other materials such as 8mm home movies, television, and internet music videos, Zaatari undertakes a wider exploration of both the technologies of image-making and the way these technologies have changed the speed of cultural transformation.

Saturday, April 2 1:30pm