Issam Kourbaj has created a new set of photographs using a camera obscura (Latin for ‘dark room’). The optical device uses a hole (or lens in this case) to project an image of its surroundings into a darkened box; the image appears inverted due to the travel of light in straight lines. Kourbaj’s atmospheric images record some of the activity that takes place in the Maxwell Centre’s laboratories 15 and working spaces, ranging from Maxwell’s historic instruments to the study of light and development of new superconducting materials by contemporary scientists.
Taking the title of a Fairouz song, Another Day Lost is a series of installations by Syrian-born, UK-based artist Issam Kourbaj, inspired by the refugee crisis and made out of discarded books, sheet music, aerial photography, maps, medicine packaging and matches.
The overall appearance is that of a vast refugee ‘camp’, constructed from thousands of tiny paper and cardboard ‘tents’, many of which are marked with Kourbaj’s distinctive black lines (based on Arabic calligraphy and traditional mourning ribbons), and encircled with a ‘fence’ of matches.
The matches are burned as time passes, and arranged in tally marks to count the days: one burnt match for every day since the beginning of the Syrian uprising (15th March, 2011). Meanwhile, the new matches represent the uncertain future.
By repurposing discarded, commonplace materials, Kourbaj laments not only the loss of time, normality and everyday life for Syrians everywhere, but also the poor quality of life experienced by his compatriots in their displacement.
This will be the 9th edition of Another Day Lost, installed here to mark the fifth anniversary of the Syrian uprising (15th March, 2016). There will be a match burning ceremony every day at noon to add to the artwork and to commemorate the countless Syrian lives lost over the last five years.
Issam Kourbaj was born in Syria, and studied in Damascus, St. Petersburg and London. He is based in Cambridge, UK, where he is a Lector in art. Since 2011, he has been making works inspired by and based upon the worsening crisis in his home country.
“transform(art)ive”: Art for Social Change is a series of 1 to 7 days of art exhibitions or provoked expression in conjunction with talks panel & discussions on issues of social justice, engaging and inspiring the community into critical thinking and empathetic understanding of the world around us. Issam Kourbaj’s project “Another Day Lost…”, curated by Louisa Macmillan and brought to 12G by Amina Ahmed is the first in this new series of exhibitions.
Another Day Lost is a series of installations by Syrian-born, UK-based artist Issam Kourbaj, inspired by aerial images of refugee camps and is made out of waste materials. Each installation is constructed from discarded books, medicine packaging and burnt matches. As one of the visitors in London commented: “Waste materials portraying wasted lives.” The overall appearance is that of a refugee ‘camp’, made out of thousands of tiny paper and cardboard ‘tents’, some of which are marked with Kourbaj’s distinctive black lines (based on Arabic calligraphy and traditional mourning ribbons), and encircled with a ‘fence’ of burnt matches.
The used, redundant matches reference not only the irreversible changes in everyday Syrian life but also the loss of thousands of lives. The matches are arranged in tally marks, which enumerate the number of days that have passed since the beginning of the Syrian uprising (15th March, 2011), and one match will be added to the artwork for each day while the conflict continues. On 24th February, there will be 1,808 matches.
By repurposing discarded materials and extinguished matches, Kourbaj laments not only the loss of time, normality and everyday life for Syrians everywhere, but also the poor quality of life experienced by his compatriots in their displacement. The installations were initially scattered around central London, in disused spaces and even a UNHCR tent, in a pattern loosely related to the diaspora of refugee camps that have arisen in the countries bordering Syria over the last five years. As the refugee crisis worsened on an international scale, Another Day Lost was also shown aboard a boat on the River Thames and exhibited for the first time in the USA in two tents in the churchyard of Trinity Wall Street, over Christmas 2015 and New Year 2016.
Kourbaj says: “Another Day Lost is an archive of loss and remembrance, not of the distant past, but of the very painful present; a present of lasting scars, abandoned humans and cities turned to dust. More than 1800 days have passed since the Syrian uprising, and the count goes on. Tragically millions of Syrians are still uprooted, displaced and orphaned and many are becoming citizens of a tent.”