لمياء ابوخضرا

Not the Sunrise

Installation including three spotlights, light filters, rear-projection screen, digital prints, gouache, acetate.
158 in x 79 in x 79 in // 400 cm x 200 cm x 200 cm

In May 2021, at the same time mass uprisings were taking place across Occupied Palestine, Gaza was bombed constantly for 11 days straight. After the barrage was over, I became interested in how the situation in Gaza and the images circulating during and after those 11 days were described, specifically photos in which images of the bombings looked like and were described as the sunrise.

In an attempt to understand the lineage of these images, I began researching the photographic history of major man-made explosions. I encountered photographic documentation from 20th century US nuclear test programs: the Manhattan Project and Operation Fishbowl. I also encountered testimonies of scientists attending the first of these tests, the 1945 Trinity Bomb explosion, which was decribed as an apocalyptic vision, as if the blast had created a second. The massive explosions that took place during these tests create arresting images which have an awe and fear-inspiring effect. The forms of light and dust shift quickly from one shape and color to another. The explosions themselves are blinding; they can create shadows and silhouettes in the middle of the night. 

I investigated the aesthetic and political connections between the bombing of Gaza and the atomic tests in the US through the material of light and how it reflects back to our eyes, affecting our perceptions. The primary colors of light are red, green, and blue. When mixed together, they make white light, meaning white light contains all colors.

Red, green and blue spotlights shine onto digital prints and drawings made on transparent substrate. The images are sourced from recent instances in Gaza where an explosion either looked like or was described as the sun. The transparencies are collaged and hung from racks, but they and the spotlights are not immediately visible to viewers because a rear projection screen hangs from the ceiling, blocking them from view.  The rear projection screen, however, reveals what the combination of white light, deconstructed into its primary colors, and transparent images of bright flashes of light generate: images made of pure shadow.

Image credits:
13 May, 2021
CAPTION: “ھذا لیس شروق، ھذه غزة قصفت”, “This is not the sunrise, this is Gaza being bombed.”
Photographer unknown

17 May, 2021
Refaat Alareer
CAPTION: “In Gaza we see the sun a hundred times”
Photography: Mahmud Hams

20, May 2021
CAPTION: “🇵🇸#Palestine || Number of Palestinians were killed and others were injured during overnight Israeli heavy airstrikes that targeted homes in Gaza.”
Photography: مصدر الإخبارية (Msdr News)

19, April 2022
Bahaa Shammala
CAPTION: “I took the risk to show you the Israeli crimes against us. I took this video for the Israeli warplane bombarded a place near my home.”
Photography: Bahaa Shammala

21, April 2022
CAPTION: “🇵🇸#Palestine | A series of Israeli airstrikes targeted several sites in Gaza Strip, tonight.”
Photographer unknown

Photography by Romy Finke