The Dimension of Absence

Does an absence accept a caress easily? Here, absence radiates such violence that one wonders how to soothe it and, barring that, where to hide from it. Knowing Sara Badr, the question becomes a perplexity, complexity, a reminder of the lining–the other side–that life stitches there so patiently and stealthily, on that in-side, that hidden side.

First, that face. Does he/she ever have a face? So absent, with its back turned, on the far side of what has been lived and what can be acknowledged, ultimately, we see only it. As if standing before an amputee, we are able to define that person only by his amputation, by the unspoken invitation to negotiate with, by and for the missing limb. After all, what is more omnipresent than one’s own face, which, all things considered, we see so rarely? This dual woman (diptych), this puzzle-woman, has managed to fix us with a stare; indeed, to de-face us. The peephole corresponds to the sudden, acute awareness of an inner gaze (Judas/judas, that traitor/peephole, whose betrayal led to the crime): a temptation to look more closely, more deeply. And within, there is the text, the truncated text, the text that abandons the painting, short-circuits it, changes the rules of the game once again, adds another dimension to the expression, an unexpected piece to the puzzle. What is said matters little, deep down (literally, deep down); when we emerge stunned, intoxicated, we have already experienced the blow that an understanding of the non-canvas delivers, the non-painting that we have just, unknowingly, contemplated. Do we rush from that gaze, snuggle up to that non-face, now so familiar, so reassuring? Another absence, the absence of color, reveals itself to us, over and over again. “Sara, Sara,” we want to say, “Why so cruel?” As if she refuses us the too-easy pleasure, amputees that we are, of lending us the crutch of color; a crutch available as we limp along on the arm of absence.

Rather than that sought-after color, we have the impression that this woman, with her multiple facelessness and her lucid gaze, would not be appear-graciously, freely, politely–on a canvas. She presses against what one might call a faded wall, like the many faded walls in this city where, towards and against the sea, the humidity, the downpour, the water shaken off by the mountain and the puddle where they are gathered, people refuse-by absurd pretension!-to get wet. Then we realize that Sara Badr has drenched us, soaked us to the point of absence, in her world, our world, round, like that fetus at the beginning, and that we traverse it knowing full well, knowing absolutely, that death has a face and that death, even when it pretends to turn its back on us, stares at us with a lucid gaze. Does death enjoy watching us play, pretend, love, lie and build our crutches? In short, living in wait to show us its face-our real face-when the hour arrives and the circle closes.

A circle so cruel that we want to touch, feel, negotiate, to caress it, as the other would say, to have a sense of whether it is vicious or mean. Thus, the question: Sara Badr, does an absence accept a caress?

Hani Hammoud, President of Radio Orient, Paris
from the catalogue of the exhibition