For On Canal, Lebanese artist Lara Atallah debuts her first major exhibition in New York City, titled Threshold. The exhibition consists of 20 Polaroids depicting Mediterranean shorelines and 3 large scale, suspended cyanotypes in addition to 8 small-scale “sun prints” made from pebbles collected from the various beaches.
Bordered by over 20 countries, the Mediterranean is commonly perceived as a place of recreation and leisure. Of late, the sea has become the only viable route to safer shores for masses of refugees fleeing war zones aboard hazardous, over- packed rubber boats. In many cases, these vessels never make it safely to their destination resulting in mass casualties. For those who survive, the Mediterranean represents the unforgiving, archetypal theatre of a perilous journey and an ever-present ocean of residual trauma. For too many others, it is a final resting place.
Polaroids, by definition, remove a great deal of creative control over the final product. A Polaroid camera does not give the option to set the aperture or the shutter speed. It reduces the photographer’s role to framing the scene. To photograph the sea with Polaroids means to embrace the unpredictability of the medium as well as the pictured subject—a large body of water that ebbs and flows beyond the limits of human control. Each photograph was deliberately damaged during the first 30 seconds of its development producing distorted landscapes-an expression of immediate and lasting trauma.
A moratorium on looking, 2018, Digital Video, 05:53 considers the Mediterranean Sea as a terrain of leisure and peril. Filmed in Mytilini and Athens, it is a contemplation on photography and the act of seeing.