Dor Guez’s artistic practice is at once forensic and personal. It culminates in installations of found objects as well as deeply textured 'scanograms,' a term he uses to describe a unique digital imaging process. Born into a blended family of Palestinians and Tunisian Jews, Guez explores chapters of his own layered history to expose the hidden connections, subversive undercurrents, and present-day contexts of his family’s unique story, and that of the region he comes from. Oftentimes the point of departure is a seemingly modest treasure from the family archive—a vintage wedding photograph, a dress-maker’s pattern, or a notebook written in an ancient Judeo-Arabic dialect. Yet for Guez such relics are the stuff of expansive possibility.Read More
Guez’s work plays on the tension between what one inherits—a language, a name, a place of origin—and what one reinvents over time. Stories are told and retold, and traces of the past are rediscovered, shedding light on little-known facts and familial chapters. One recent work, Letters from the Greater Maghreb, reflects a pivotal moment in Guez’s family history, when his grandparents—who both worked in theatre—escaped from concentration camps in Nazi-occupied Tunisia and later, in 1951, immigrated to Israel. The journey was arduous and key personal documents were damaged by water during the trip. One of these was a manuscript written by his grand-father in Judeo-Tunisian Arabic, using what looks like a mix of Hebrew and Arabic characters. Taking the fragile pages of the surviving document and creating enlarged scans of the single sheets and sections, Guez intensifies themes of blurring and loss in the resultant prints, at once bringing the viewer closer to and farther away from the meaning of the original words.
This visualization of disappearance evokes several cultural shifts simultaneously, particularly relating to language; Tunisian Jews adopted Hebrew as their language when they moved to Israel, and Judeo-Tunisian Arabic has begun to disappear. Duplication and fragmentation thus reify the immigrant’s experience of doubling and absence. Speaking of the visual devices at play in his work, Guez writes, “The words are engulfed in abstract spots and these become a metaphor for the harmonious conjunction between two Semitic languages, between one mother tongue and another, and between homeland and a new country.”
Operating on multiple levels at once, Guez finds and resituates objects to reveal not only what from the past was lost but what has been largely forgotten or even consciously suppressed; the Nazi occupation of Tunisia, for example, is rarely addressed or publicly acknowledged. Yet his work allows these connections to emerge so poignantly because he cleaves so closely to the people whose lives they affected. In some instances his work quite literally fills negative space, as evidenced in his colorisation and scanning techniques. He also uses light boxes to exaggerate overlooked relics, heightening their graphic presence. Adapting the clean, sterile casework of museum display, he puts personal objects on view, drawing attention not only to their intricacy and fragility but also to their powerful hybridity as displaced cultural artifacts and postwar readymades. It is in this unclassifiable realm—between the personal and the social, the found and fabricated, the seen and obscured—that Guez’s work gathers its force.
Text courtesy Goodman Gallery.