Tarek Al-Ghoussein

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Visual Arts (photography)
Middle East
Palestine, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates
created on:
October 20, 2003
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Tarek Al-Ghoussein


On Self Portraits 2002-2003

Artist on own work

This project began with thoughts of Sisyphus. I was drawn to the apparent similarities between the Myth of Sisyphus and what I have observed to be a growing “myth” generated through the Western media, specifically the myth that all Palestinians are terrorists and that the Palestinian intifada, like Sisyphus, seems condemned to an endless cyclic struggle. Even the “tools” of the myths have similarities. Sisyphus is condemned by the gods to push a stone up a hill for eternity only to have it roll back down when inches from the top. Since the mid-1980s the news media have associated the Palestinian intifada with stone throwing and other acts of violence. Transcending media representation has been an ongoing “uphill battle” for Palestinians. The work represents a commentary on contemporary Western media representations of the Palestinian as terrorist. The series of self–portraits recontextualize the “ trademarks” of the intifada (stone and scarf) using the light box, a medium traditionally reserved for advertising and the promotion of consumer goods. The process of producing these photographs resulted in my detainment in an Arab country outside the UAE. This has made me realize that perhaps myself and other Arabs need to question our own associations with the “scarf”. It has become a symbol of terrorism in its own right. April, 2003 Tarek Al-Ghoussein

This recent body of work concerns itself with barriers, land and longing. The work is part of a continued exploration of the relationships between image and identity. It may be considered a variation of the themes I have been exploring for the past couple of years. The current series of images are small prints on matt paper. This is done to move away from the monumentality of the “self-portraits” shown in large light boxes at the Sixth Sharjah Biennale and to express related thoughts and sentiment on a more intimate scale. The new images are less concerned with media-generated perception and more about personal observation and experience. During the process leading to these images, it became increasingly clear to me how barriers, land and longing inform, shape and define each other.

Tarek Al-Ghoussein
December 16, 2003

Catalogue Statement for “War Room” 2003
Tarek Al-Ghoussein and Chris Kienke

The dialogue generated by this project deals with questions of reality, experience and subjectivity.

Working with a digital camera and a tripod, we photographed approximately 1500 images off the television screen. Only after the end of the war was declared did we discover that we independently had documented its television coverage.

The exhibited images are the result of numerous levels of filtration. Several of these preceded and limited the choices available to us. Countless decisions had been made before we had access to the imagery: the footage had been pre-selected in its production, editing and broadcasting,

In addition, banal aspects of our daily routines: work, sleep, eating, going to the bathroom, showering, shopping, phone calls, visits, etc. determined when we were able to monitor and document the coverage. Eventually boredom, disgust, disbelief, and over-stimulation caused us to change the channel – at times almost unconsciously. We gradually became aware of parallels between the images broadcast on the news and the images simultaneously found in other television programs.

The work at once underlines the ultimate subjectivity of experience and highlights some of the limits within which individual opinions are formed.

*150 inches height x 290 inches width x 235 inches length

Author: Tarek Al-Ghoussein


Tarek Al-Ghoussein was born in Kuwait in 1962 and is of Palestinian origin. He recieved his BFA in photography from New York University in 1985 and continued his graduate studies at the University of New Mexico where he obtained a MA in Photography in 1989. He has been an Assistant Professor of Photography since 1998 at the American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. He has exhibited in Europe, New Zealand and the UAE.


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.

Nomad Academy

Five from Afar

(01 October 03 - 17 October 03)


The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts

Copenhagen Culture Info

Interview with artist

Universes in Universe

Online magazine on contemporary arts from the Islamic World
Untitled B series
Untitled 2 (Looking at Palestine)
Untitled 1 (Self Portrait Series)
Untitled II

Article by Antonia Carver

Article from Sharjah International Biennial in Sharjah 2003
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