JAYCE SALLOUM

The grandson of Lebanese immigrants, Jayce Salloum was born in Kelowna, British Columbia in 1958. After studying arts in the United States, he began his artistic career in 1975, the year that civil war broke out in Lebanon. Already marginal because accompanied by ’shock-texts’, his first photo exhibits were rapidly transformed into installations as he progressively associated his photographs with archival objects and documents, and as he resorted to other mediums, such as video. Salloum gives special weight to the constituent elements of representation and, more particularly, to their underlying historical, social and cultural context. This deconstructionist approach allows him, on the one hand, to attempt to "define that place from which I relate with the world" and, on the other hand, to transgress the structures that limit and shape how we look at the world. As in the triptych ..The Ascent of Man.. (1985-1987), in which he examines the way reproductions/representations are used to promote, influence and direct a way of life, he combines broadcast footage with ’live’ street pictures and super-8 film transfers: "I collect images from the media representing a situation, a scene or event used to inform or misinform the viewer and then I manipulate and recontextualise these images."

A great nomad, he has lived in several of North America’s largest cities. But it is Beirut and Lebanon, where he has also lived, that most radically influence his work: "The use of images/representations of Lebanon and Beirut has an extensive history in the West and in Lebanon itself. .. My own position as an image maker is situated somewhere between being a family member, visitor, tourist, guide and unwilling orientalist . . . never occupying any one position for too long, fluctuating peripatetically between the act of re-producing and the deconstruction of such an act and its object." Salloum has chosen to explore his history by linking his family to its rural roots in Lebanon. He pursues a means to document the elusive city of Beirut and the colonial presence in South Lebanon, and simultaneously provides us with a critique of the western media for its orientalist bent. Lebanon’s historical richness and the power of its metaphorical evocation allow him, moreover, to deal directly with questions that are for him central: exile, ethnic representation and the notion of identity.

No real ’understanding’ of this area is possible, he suggests, as far as the western viewer understanding the other culture, but there can be an awareness, both a visual/aural sense of the subjectivities at stake, as well as a sense of the political/subjective positions. There is no such thing as ’objectivity’ in the reports of the media, you have to look to and through the subjective of whatever ’truths’ you find. In video’s such as Talaeen a Junuub / Up to the South (1993) and This Is Not Beirut / There Was and There Was Not (1994) Salloum deals with the Western construction of knowledge of the Middle East, the issue of representing diverse subjectivities and positions within groups and individuals but also with the continuation of the ’documentary production’ intricately tied up in the history of colonialism, post-colonialism and the mediation of images, questioning his own position as image-maker, artist, visitor and family member. He constructs his videos in a manner that they lend themselves a discursive reading, referencing a history of social act and reconstruction, working with the visceral and emotional conditions of the viewer, thought with a direct connection to the perception, the reading of the representation, the history of that presentation and the questions raised herein.

His work can be read in a variety of contexts which when combined draw head-on the multi-faceted problem of history itself. In adroitly jamming the systems we so easily take for granted, Salloum has created an original and empowered methodological mirror in which ideologically-imposed images are made crystal clear and lose, by exposure, their hold on perception. Furthermore, the work is set up to be read on different levels by different viewers, at times in different languages and sometimes through the structure and familiarity of content. "I always try to construct an active audience, not providing easy answers or passive information as pabulum, but often aiming to provoke, producing a ’productive frustration’ in the viewer where the viewers are responsible for how they’re perceiving, or at least raising questions about the baggage they’ve brought to work and the responses they have within a very particular / problematized ’field’ or set of inquiries."

Salloum is interested in the blurred aspects of a post-colonial condition, the non-essentialized positions, where hybridity is the norm and identity is a continual negotiation of sorts. In his ongoing video and installation project Untitled he subjectively theorizes borders, nationalisms, movements (shifts, transitions, and interstitial space/time) and the conditions of living between polarities of culture, geography, history, and ideology. "Integral to the totality of this project is the defining of interstitiality but in a way that doesn’t rest in the dysfunctional. This could also be seen as a challenge to monolithic beliefs, and the examination of legacies of empire and the contested and conflicted notions of homeland, nation, diaspora, exile, travel, assimilation, refuge, native and other in an attempt to challenge our realities and perceptions and in doing so, reclaim and reconstruct an agency that is complex and self determining." Indeed, ’resistance’ - as a general paradigm - could be thought of as the underlying precept to the impetus of his work, not only in content - in the political arena, in social and cultural relations/positionings and productions, .. - but also structurally, formally, and ideologically. His work, situated between genres, is based on a critical engagement that lays bare cracks in the underbelly, tugging at stereotypes and conventions, feeling like "seams and creases, or disjoints and fissures".
 
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