The seed for this project came to me during the retrospective of the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Centre Pompidou in 2004. The remarkable resemblance between the Becher’s water towers and the Israeli watchtowers was powerful, and I embarked on a project to index this war architecture in the style of the Bechers.
Following these German artists who worked beginning in the 1950s to document the disappearing industrial architecture of Europe, I attempted to establish a typology of the military watchtowers in Palestine. I wanted to create an illusion, a sort of “Trojan horse,” in which a spectator standing before my typologies would believe them to be part of the Bechers’ oeuvre. Upon closer inspection, however, it quickly becomes apparent that the technique of the German photographers and the clarity of their subjects is somehow off-kilter.
Significantly, the project registers the attempt (or the situational difficulty in trying to attempt) to follow the Bechers’ method. The particularly perilous conditions of these photographs render them compromised. As a Palestinian born in Gaza I am not authorized to return to the West Bank, so I delegated a Palestinian photographer to carry out these photos. They are out of focus, clumsily framed, imperfectly lighted. In this territory, one cannot install the heavy equipment of the Bechers or take the time to frame the perfect position, let alone afford to wait days for the ideal light conditions. Aestheticization becomes a vivid political challenge, both in the creation of these photographs and in their reception, as these images challenge viewers to see these functional military constructions as sculptural, or as a part of a formal architectural heritage.