Only the Beloved Keeps Our Secrets
Only the Beloved Keeps Our Secrets invites us to consider the forms of entanglement between the destruction of bodies and the erasure of images, and the conditions under which these same bodies and images might once again reappear. Utilising military surveillance footage, the artists create a multi-layered and shifting work.
Like much of Abbas and Abou-Rahme’s work, the film is concerned with notions of fragmentation, disappearance and reappearance. Grainy footage is taken from an Israeli military surveillance in the foreground, whilst in the background a hand is holding a flower, freshly picked. After a court injunction, images were widely circulated online depicting a day in March 2014, where 14 year-old Yusuf Shawamreh crossed the “separation fence” erected by the Israeli military near Hebron. The teenage boy had been going to pick a flower, short in season and a delicacy in Palestinian cuisine, when he was shot dead by Israeli military forces.
Layers upon layers build on top of each other in a density of images. As the artists note, the function of this is “obscuring what came before in an accumulation of constant testament and constant erasure.” Another layer: red text in English capital letters, in Arabic script flashes up on top.
Using online recordings of song and dance to create a fragmented script, Abbas and Abou-Rahme use images of ambiguous and abandoned landscapes collected over a five year period. Shot mostly in Palestine, the images have the power to act as a testament but to invalidate themselves too. It’s the tension between opposing forces that the artists are able to convey in their work.
When images are widely circulated, a new meaning is given. In this, the act of taking apart, re-assembling and reframing the urgency of bearing witness is felt anew. “It is here between seeing and not seeing, between appearance and disappearance, that what could be retrieved from the wreck can be glimpsed.” —Myriam Mouflih