Our era is one of weakness, and is invaded by images. Photography is repetitive and reigns supreme over an artistic milieu that stays away from politics. Artists, too busy with art festivals and biennales, are not moved by the world’s commerce, and usually avoid commenting on worldly government. We care so little that the emergence of a young photographer who is troubled by her world disconcerts us.
Noel Jabbour is a Palestinian, born in Israel, and of Christian origin. Her talent does not proceed from these facts alone. We know that to be close to an object alters our analysis of it and corrupts our seeing. Noel Jabbour has chosen to study in Israel and has patiently built, by a series of “soft breaks”, an alternative to the confusion of her triple roots, which must have been, for her, a source of contradictions. Noel Jabbour must have proceeded cautiously to abstract herself from anger and violent denunciation. Armed with a press pass early on in her career, she adopted the posture of a photo-journalist so she could distance herself from her own emotions. Her work opens with a series of diverted postcards, and the story of an uprooted family living among her own family. From this first work, a solid approach is in evidence as the result of its emotional distance, and a deep empathy for its subjects. Her departure for Europe removed her from direct relationship with the conflict, but nevertheless did not eliminate its themes from her work. Her most recent photographs bring us back to Palestine. Going back to her roots, Noel Jabbour identifies with the child who explores her native village and, while making the rounds, hits a wall. This Wall, she found, one morning, established. Here we are in front of the concrete wall set up in the West Bank by Israel. It’s an incongruity that one sees from the sky above, a Lilliputian Wall of China – a senseless object that does not know who to protect and who to lock up. This monster is called paranoia. The wall is erect, similar to a snake which unfolds -- an absolute anomaly. This monster is real. It divides and it separates. It is hatred. This illusory line of defense, a long ribbon made up of modules 1.5 meters wide and 8 meters high and loaded with electronic surveillance equipment, wants to be an instrument of power and authority. But on a land emptied of its inhabitants, it is a house of cards, a weak Lego construction that will fall in shame. And from this wall, the words of Baudelaire will spout forth: « When I will have inspired universal horror and disgust, I will have conquered loneliness ».
Jabbour’s images speak to us this way. The sky is heavy and the inhabitants are in hiding. It is impossible to know, in these pictures, for whom the punishment is intended. The sky, of a gray lead color, tells us that a divine anger is there, present and restrained and terribly silent. It is perhaps this silence that Noel Jabbour cares about, and is the focus of her questions. To deal with the power of reality, Noel Jabbour does not want to answer with the use of concept and form alone, but she organizes a staged action that resolves itself in practical work. She confronts the Wall with the controlled lighting, film grain, format and composition. The asphalt echoes the clouds and the gravel is the grain. Noel Jabbour gives us an ageless biblical vision of this conflict. The Wall takes its place again in the fresco that is several thousand years old. When conditioned by our immediate history, and feel powerless, when we are only fed images that limit of our horizon, Noel Jabbour, takes a position and, through this position, teaches us history anew.
François Cheval, Director of the Musée Nicéphore Niépce in Chalon-sur-Saône