Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige
Lebanon / France
Lasting Images, 2003
Video installation, super-8 film converted to DVD, 3 min
Courtesy of the artists
This work is based on real events, on a family history, a history of the war with its losses and traumas. The story says: "On August 19, 1985, Khalil's Uncle, Kettaneh Junior, was kidnapped during the Lebanese civil war. He is still officially reported missing today like 17, 000 other Lebanese.

In March 2001, the artists came across the archives, photographs, and films that once belonged to Khalil's uncle. Among his things they found one 'latent lm', a super-8 that remained undeveloped. It had been stored in a yellow bag for fifteen years, surviving the ravages of the war and a re that devastated the house where it was kept. Joreige and Hadjithomas considered for a long time whether they should send the lm to be developed, which implies taking the risk that these latent images might reveal nothing. Eventually they decided to send it to the lab.

The lm came out veiled, white, with a barely noticeable presence that vanished immediately from the screen. The artists searched with- in the layers of the lm itself, attempting to create the reappearance of a presence, of images. After extensive work on color corrections, the footage became more vivid, the images manifested themselves – these lasting images that refuse to disappear.

A shadow, a hand can be seen, a boat, the port of Beirut, the roof of a house; a group of three persons, soon joined by a fourth. A lasting image evoking this morning of the war sunk into oblivion, of which memories are denied". Indeed, for those who survived the trauma of a loss any object associated with their dear ones is of special importance. In most cases these are photographs, films and video tapes showing the departed person. It is a well-known fact that Roland Barthes conceived his famous book Camera lucida as he scrutinized a photograph of his deceased mother. The image of something no longer existing that had been captured in a photograph always bears a stamp of death. At the same time – and that was aptly commented on by Derrida – photo and video images ensure a certain degree of presence for the dead thanks to which he is perceived as "the living dead", that is, a spirit. The same is true about any documentary image because it shows a reality which is no longer the same. Any photograph or lm frame is as it were the "hospitality place" or "refuge" for the spirits coming to us from non-being. This is why for Joana and Khalil the film they developed not only revived Kettaneh himself for them but also that "morning of the war sunk into oblivion, of which memories are denied."
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