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Nasser Soumi


Memory of Indigo I-II

Installation performance (2006-2010)


For more than twenty five years now, I have been using the natural indigo pigment in my art work as a dominant color. It was by pure intuition. An art critic who wanted to write an article about my work asked me “why the blue?” I answered “not the blue, but the Indigo”. My answers lead me to know more about Indigo. First I remembered that I grew up in the house of my uncle where his portrait was painted with indigo shades only. Later, I read the following sentence in a book that dates back to 1849 “The Recovery of Jerusalem” by the traveler Warren: “On a sunny day, we can see in the streets of Jerusalem hundreds of meters of fabrics dyed with indigo.” Another book published by the British Museum in 1989 produced this sentence to me: “Indigo is the first color of Palestine”. Natural indigo was massively used to dye the Palestinian costumes.  Associated with lime, indigo was also widely used to paint the interior and the exterior of houses. Finally, my research led me to find a lot of references from Arab and foreigner travelers who mentioned the plantation of indigo in the Jordan valley. Indigo, however, is not related to Palestine only. I learned that many other countries produce and share the admiration for this color like India, Egypt, Mexico, Mali, China, Japan...   

I wanted to celebrate the color in an artistic performance.

In 2006 « Memory of Indigo I » was celebrated in Hyderabad in India during the “Symposium of Natural Dyes”. The dance was inspired by indigo dyers and the Indian culture of dance. The musicians were monks living in an ashram. They played in public for the first time.

In 2010 « Memory of Indigo II » took place in the great citadel of Aleppo which was the most important city in the Middle East for indigo dyeing. The dance was inspired by local dance, using silk fabrics that were still largely found in the city’s crafts. The music was composed by musicians from Aleppo who reflect the rich traditions of the city.

The Cube

Installation (1999)

Sharjah Biennial 4, Sharjah

This installation is a collaborative work initiated and facilitated by Nasser Soumi. The artist invited 29 other artists participating in the 4th edition of Sharjah Biennial to suggest and produce a small work to be included in his cube. These site-specific works included personal material as well as found objects in the markets of the city including artefacts and elements from Sharjah’s environment.

The final installation was in the form of a monumental cube with four windows inviting the spectator to discover the different boxes displayed inside and produced by the different artists.

This installation deals with the globalization in the context of large international exhibitions but also tackles the issue of authorship in the creation of collaborative artworks.

Traces of the twentieth century

Sculpture (1998)

Navarra Gallery, Paris - France


Nasser Soumi's project, which is part of our exhibition entitled "80 Artists around the World's Cup" 1998, is also part of another far-ranging yet targeted project of the artist's own, on the legacies and artifacts of our century. His idea is to gather international oral histories from different prominent figures of the end of this century, which will be sealed at dawn on the first day of the year 2000, to be opened one century later, at dawn of the first day of the year 2100, at which time they may be made public. Given the nature of this exhibition, the testimonies gathered will of course come from famous people in the worlds of soccer and the arts, but also from any other people who wish to leave their own mark for the next century to find. In another hundred years, our descendants will discover, through our sealed documents, our thoughts and perhaps our secrets as well. How fascinating to be the raw material of a future thought which will exist in a world not yet born!

Christine Shreyer

The People's Soul

Installation (1997)Printemps Palestinien

Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris - France

Nasser Soumi is displaying a large wooden cube whose contents are invisible to the visitor when he or she climbs a ramp. At the top, the visitor realizes that the cube has been hollowed out and its inside has been lined with blocks of soap, emptied as well and filled with oil. In each soap, the artist has placed a lighted wick. When leaning over the cube, viewers discover this light.

Should we see an allegory in this work? There are echos of the film "Les Visiteurs du Soir" where two lovers turned into statues, although still alive, defy the Devil. Mad with rage, he whips the statues from beyond the grave and cries: "This heart which beats! And beats! And beats!..." All of France understood at the time that the German occupying forces were described as being unable to keep the soul of the French people from beating like the heart of the statues. Nasser Soumi's small flame in the Palestinian Spring is also a heart that beats, and beats, and beats…

Michel Nuridsany

Icon for Jaffa

First Installation (1996), Dar El Funun, Amman - Jordan

Second installation (2014), Mark Hachem, Beirut Exhibition Center

The majority of Jaffa’s inhabitants left their city in 1948, carrying away with them only a few personal possessions but many recollections. Little may be left of their ageing belongings, but their memories are still illuminated by moments of their previous lives in their city.

Since then many of Jaffa’s houses have been demolished or had their features altered almost beyond recognition, and most of its inhabitants have been supplanted.

I have sought to collect that which could not be demolished or destroyed, the first memories that tie every human being to his or her city in the way an umbilical cord ties them to the womb from which they were born.

The work consists of 30 wooden boxes, each of which contains a postcard-size sheet of paper bearing a text written by someone who was born in Jaffa and spent his or her early years there. Inside each box there is a glass bottle filled with water from the sea off Jaffa, and strips of dried  orange peels fixed to an indigo surface in the form of a wave.

 These boxes are displayed in a row. Next to each box stands a lit candle, and below each is a shallow container filled with water stained with the indigo pigment for which Jaffa was once famed for using, reflecting the candle's flickering flame.


Performance (1996)

Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Céramique Industrielle, Paris - France in collaboration with Mathias Poisson

Participants : Naïma Carbonare (contemporary artist), Jean-Christophe Lemay (compositor), Mahmoud Saïd (actor), Soegeng (contemporary artist), Carole Thomas (storyteller)

This is not the first time that Nasser Soumi plays with our senses.

The invisible element is no doubt what inspires him. Each installation demonstrates this and has no other ambition than to relate what happens between the being and its environment. Where have we ended up after learning, after mastering gestures repeated sometimes from generation to generation, after adopting roles? What can we really see in this codified reality? It is certainly not by chance if water and its representation have often been presented in his works besides indigo, the original deep blue between sky and sea. Opacity is presented, appearances are effaced.

The project presented at the ENSCI is of this type. Behind translucent screens, artists are cut off from direct gazes which involve, expect, and judge. Intimacy of gestures remains complete, sounds created become solitary. A strange spectacle links us to the being disconnected from its function and what we feel is close to the unknown. What is the very object of this rising apprehension ? Could  itsimply be ourselves!?

After erasing, the page is never really white…

Henri Gama

The Rock of Raouché

Site-specific intervention (1999)

Ashkal Alwan, Beirut - Lebanon

The program “Corniche 1999” organized by the Lebanese Association for Contemporary Arts, “Ashkal Alwan”, got off to a good start yesterday morning on the coast side of Beirut, the Corniche. Until 15 October, the walkers and the passers-by will have the opportunity to discover installations, sculptures and other creations of Lebanese and foreign artists. The Palestinian artist Nasser Soumi – guest of honor of this event – did not come empty handed. On the contrary, his project has given rise to a shock wave and one can bet that it will continue to do so for some time to come…

What if the Rock of Raouché disappeared? How would the people react, Lebanese and foreigners alike? This question was at the heart of the artist’s creation for Nasser Soumi tries always “to study and understand the relation between the citizen and his environment”.

Last week-end, he set up himself with his equipment on the Corniche, accompanied by a team of surveyors. After sticking explanatory panels and giant plans of the project, they began with the site’s study. At the same time, several mountaineers were climbing the Rock with ropes in order to help in the process of taking measures (…).

The French film-maker, Jerome Martin, who is associated to Soumi’s project was filming, on the spot, the reactions of the passers by and the questions of the most curious among them (…).

After having lived in Lebanon for a number of years, Nasser Soumi left Beirut in 1980 and came back nineteen years later. Hi first visit was last March: “I was shattered by the spoiled landscape and the unplanned and savage constructions” he says. This led him to ask the question: would people continue to keep silent about what is happening if the Rock of Raouché, for example, was destroyed? (…).

Nasser Soumi has always worked with the public: “The relation of the people with what exists around them arises both my curiosity and my interest”, he explains (…).

Natacha Sikias, L’Orient-Le Jour, 5 October, 1999

Traces of Avignon

Public Installation (1991)

Place du palais des Papes, Avignon - France

During the 44th Avignon Festival, contemporary artist Nasser Soumi presented a monumental yet fleeting performance. From 9 July to 3 August 1991, a pyramid of 4 meters in height was installed on the “ Place des Papes ”. Every day, Nasser Soumi “fed” the structure with leaflets, posters, programs and various elements that were collected on the site of the Festival. This was carried out with the participation of the public who took care of the daily recovery of the papers before handing them to the artist. All those papers were then stuck and superimposed on the pyramid that got bigger, every day, and went through phases of transformation. In the heart of the pyramid, an obelisk in the form of a mechanical gondola was installed. The top of the pyramid opened to let this gondola reach the height of 12 meters. Nine performances were thus carried out with the actors, dancers,  musicians and hosts of the Festival.

 Sylvie Plisson

Nuage rectangulaire

Public installation, (2005)

Alsace, France

Traces of the Twentieth Century, Sick Children 1998

Today's artists are talking about mysteries again, as the term was used in classical antiquity. We are compelled by Nasser Soumi's work, which shows his passion for archaeology and messages of all kinds--writing, signs, symbols, objects, and monuments. Traces of the invisible or ongoing expressions of desire, they fix and transfigure time, are ways to cast a longer shadow, bequeath a legacy. In this way, a message is no longer a means of communication, but rather testifies to our collective memory, reorganized and recreated. The project on display, in its artistic, multicultural, and instructive dimensions, is part of a horizontal approach, encouraging cultural exchange. Above and beyond that, the project strives to tell the story of a sick child in our hospital [Robert Debré] and of sick children around the world

Geneviève Cosse-Berti

“Watadour” … This complex and demanding work is a collaboration embracing four quite distinct forms and talents. Complementing Abou Diab and Habis’ interpretations of Rajeh’s choreography, and the performances of improvised veterans Kerbaj and Sehnaoui, is the work of Palestinian visual artist Nasser Soumi.

Soumi’s contribution, the disk upon which the dancers labor, revisits the artist’s “Memory of Indigo,” an installation-dance piece staged in the village of Shilparamam, near the Indian city of Hyderabad, in 2006. In that piece, dancers moved across a diskshaped surface placed at an oblique angle to the ground.

Here the disk isn’t fixed at an angle. Over the course of the hour-long performance, the circular surface is ever shifting. Parallel to the stage at the start of the piece, by the end it stands at a 90-degree angle. By this point, the dancers resemble urban guerrillas rappelling across the face of the screen, themselves reflecting Kerbaj’s swirling abstractions.

The piece’s mechanized aspect – the electric winches and harnesses working in counterpoint to Soumi’s discreetly moving surface/screen – lends the piece an unexpectedly retro quality. The violent juxtaposition of human fragility with the omnipresent machine is very much a 20th-century obsession, by now superseded by the digitized, ego-fellating virtualities to which “The Matrix” gestured.

Jim Quilty The Daily Star, Beirut, 22 January 2014