Territoires de l’attente

  • Taaban, 2010, video (5’31)

  • Barrier, 2008, video (6’28)

  • Unknown Village, 2007, video (8’32)

Between 2007 and 2010, Assaf Shoshan made three videos as part of his Waiting Territories series, presented today as a triptych. These long static shots (Shoshan calls them “filmed photographs”) all stand as allegories of an obstacle. Each in its own way lays bare some of the frontiers dividing the contemporary world. Together, they work as a non-didactic analysis of the visible and invisible barriers faced by certain minorities in the Middle East. These static shots — in which something never quite manages to happen — evoke, without pathos, the impasses faced by certain groups, but also by people in general. Shoshan makes manifest the helplessness of the weakest populations, but also questions our own, all the while, just below the surface, quietly asking how these deadlocks can be broken.


Taaban (5’31), 2010
In an arid valley, under a bright sky and the rays of a hot sun, Taaban, head held high, runs. Little by little, fatigue becomes visible on his face. Beads of sweat, effort and tiredness appear. The sun goes down, night falls. Taaban runs. And runs. Winds himself, exhausts himself. And, yet, never moves forward. A poignant contemporary Sisyphus, his immobile run becomes a physical manifestation of the tragic condition of those Sudanese refugees who arrived in Israel via Egypt, often at the risk of their lives. The video was filmed a few kilometres away from where Taaban managed to pass through the frontier.

Unknown Village (8’32), 2007
A tent in a desert. Its dark, cavernous opening reveals nothing of its interior, into which men are tirelessly swallowed, never to reappear. They arrive on foot, on donkeyback; leave their mount outside, and don’t emerge again. So many men – too many, far too many for this tent — and what becomes of them we don’t know. There must be a crowd inside; there must be a whole people. This interior exodus symbolizes the disappearance of the desert nomads: a people forced to become sedentary — which, for a culture based on movement, means to disappear. Unknown Village was filmed, with the support of the nomad population, at Ramat Beka’a, one of the Bedouin villages in the Negev Desert that is not recognised by the State of Israel.

Barrier ( 6’28), 2008
A pedestrian crossing in the town of Rehovot, a suburb of Tel Aviv. The camera is positioned on the pavement, at eye level. While city life continues in full swing, the lights change from green to red, regulating the heavy traffic. On the opposite pavement, a group of pedestrians don’t cross, can’t cross, and slowly grow and grow in number. The group becomes a crowd, a united front. These immobile people are Israel’s Ethiopian Jewish immigrants: a community often marginalised and the butt of discrimination. Through this performance, which gradually takes on the form of a demonstration (the violent act of blocking a road), Shoshan reveals the invisible barriers — social and psychological, collective and individual — faced by this community. We observe, over the course of the video, how the psychological barrier faced by the migrants becomes a physical one — impeding, in the end, the other pedestrians. What he shows is what doesn’t happen: not the movement, but the obstacle.