‘Masking Tape Intervention: Lebanon 1989’ is a short film by London based artist and curator Helene Kazan. The film is entirely generated from a single archive photograph taken of the kitchen in the flat her family lived in, in Lebanon just before their forced migration in 1989 during the Lebanese civil war.
‘Masking Tape Intervention: Lebanon 1989' is entirely generated from a single archive photograph taken of the kitchen in the flat I once lived in, in Lebanon. From this single photograph, 1680 images have been generated to make up the four minute and fifty second stop frame animation. Each image occupies a single momentary viewpoint throughout the day, as a narrated testimony outlines the specific pressures that lead to the transformative moment of decision to migrate. The original photograph was taken at a particularly violent point of conflict in April 1989 soon after General Aoun announced his ‘War of Liberation’ against the occupying Syrian forces, the moment my parents made the decision that we as a family would finally leave.
The photograph reveals the everyday interior of our beige and brown tiled seventies kitchen. On the left hand side of the image is a large window. The large window is crosshatched as what initially appears to be window pains, however on closer inspection it becomes apparent that the cross hatching on the window is actually masking tape. The masking tape was put onto the window as a traditional deterrent to stop glass fracturing throughout the room if a shell landed too close. If you ask my parents now, they still swear this method is totally affective.
Researching this method, the earliest examples I found of tape being used in this way was here in England in the 1940's during World War II. The most recent case I found; was when Burger King Employees Derell Bell, and Justin Casper taped the windows of the restaurant in North Carolina on Friday 26 August 2011 as hurricane Irene approached. This mechanism arguably doesn’t have any real affect; instead it seems to almost be a symbolic demarcation of impending natural or human disaster. In this photograph, it is the only difference in the architecture of the home that alludes to the turbulent and violent political situation at that time.
Having had the archive photograph in my possession since 1989, it is only recently that I have understood it as situational evidence, to understand the very signs in it that are obvious. Firstly by noticing the already mentioned subtle change in architecture of the home, secondly, because the photograph appears to not have any people in it. This has not been an artistic decision on my part to remove any human life, to make making a film easier, on the contrary, the author of the original photograph made the decision to take a photograph of just the space, just the home, as keep sake. Evidence perhaps that this person knew that they would soon be forced to leave. As I try to understand these particular pressures? What relationship with the architecture of the home does it make visible? What politics and action is the migrant forced to engage in, in making this decision to leave it? Focusing not just after the point of departure, but before and during?
By learning to read the very signs in this image, the viewer can understand this everyday architecture of the kitchen as witness to events that lead to migration. It enables through the collective elements in the film i.e. memory, testimony, image and space, a true representation of these events that took place. Interrogating the very politics the migrant is forced to engage in, in making the decision to leave. To understand how collating evidence of this moment can map and question the greater histories behind migratory movements, perhaps enabling a dialogue between these events of the past and possible events of the present and future.