ExhibitionHerbert Read Gallery

From Rochester with Love. Conversations in the Midst of the Syrian Conflict

A project by the artist Hala Georges

This exhibition functions as a counter-point to the mainstream media news about the on-going war in Syria by focusing on the intimate communications between the artist and her family back in Damascus. Hala Georges, who arrived to the UK four years ago, has produced a series of films, animations, audio pieces, and an installation inspired by the testimonies and long-distance conversations with her friends and relatives. The presentation of these materials in the gallery creates a space of encounter with the hidden stories of those anonymous citizens affected by the conflict.

My Homeland, 2014

Hala Georges' practice is a counter-point to the mainstream media images of the conflict, and brings to light hidden narratives of affected Syrian people. These personal stories are told by way of monologues, testimonies, and informal interviews with a small circle of participants. The participants conform a group consisting of the artist’s mother, sisters, nephews, nieces and a few friends; people, who have lived or are living with the conflict day-to-day. As well, Georges’ experiences as a Syrian living outside the conflict, her long-distance relationship with the participants, and her trips to the country during this time of war, are all considered inspiring materials.

Georges’ work rejects to be another Middle Eastern art cliché. It enjoys qualities of hybrid documentary style and accepts the challenge of achieving a balance between creativity and transparency, while responding to a dramatic human experience. It embraces a personal and domestic perspective, looking through the eyes of those living the conflict. Other sources of inspiration for her work are the numerous recording of the Syrian crisis made through new technologies and shared online, as well as examples from Syrian and Middle Eastern contemporary art on the subject of war and home.

Installation view

Collecting material from Syria whilst being in the UK depended on weak and disrupted internet connection and phone calls. These difficult circumstances led to produce irregular and fragmented results; their varied condition evidences the problems and realities of communication in the midst of the conflict. As such, Georges’ project tries to embody a truthfulness that media representations distort when trying to give a complete picture through gross simplification.

Artist Hala Georges explains: “The Syrian war started in March 2011 and since then my dream of returning home has slowly faded. The project is a piece of my heart made real by means of practice and it is the way for me to be part of my family’s and country’s grief. I dedicate this exhibition to the memory of my father Morris Georges.”

Installation detail

Curated by Emma Brasó and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

National Lottery and Arts Council England

Opening information:

For opening times please go to the Herbert Read gallery  page