Photo: Taysir Batniji, No Condition is Permanent (2014)
Being home bound as we all are these days, I become conscious of the objects we surround ourselves with. Some are collected over years and carry many memories- such as an armchair sitting in my living room that, like my family, has moved across the globe since the early years of the 20th century. But many more are mundane and utilitarian so they often go unnoticed. A post on Facebook late in March when we are instructed to repeatedly and mindfully 'wash [y]our hands' catches my attention. It is by the artist Taysir Batniji and titled 'No Condition is Permanent' (2014)- an interactive and ephemeral sculpture, composed of hundreds of soap bars, piled up on a wooden pallet, with the Arabic saying Dawam el Hal Men Al Mohal (which means « No condition is permanent) engraved on each bar. From the artist's website I learn that 'In Arab countries, this sentence is used when people are confronted with painful situations, like the loss of an acquaintance. The adage brings comfort and hope in difficult moments by carrying the idea that pain will not last. But, in fact, this hopeful sentence carries its own contradiction, emphasizing the weight of relativity on human conscience. It sounds like a reminder of our own condition. The fragility of this faith in better days is highlighted, not only by encouraging people to take away part of the art piece with them, but also by the fragility of the material itself...Contrary to a message engraved on stone, one stamped on a bar of soap is doomed to vanish with time and use.'* Batniji who is originally from Gaza made the work long before the outbreak as part of his interest in fragility, impermanence and harsh political realities. Posting the close up of the soap bar we are all becoming so accustomed to repeatedly use - countless times throughout the day- offers, me at least, a poetic and biting reminder that what is for millions of us in the western world considered the crazy 'new normal', has been the relentless and cruel reality for many millions elsewhere, where restrictions on movements are routine and confinement to homes an everyday fact.
The work also reflects on the repetitiveness of hand washing -but I will return to that in the next post...
* From text on Taysir Batniji's website https://www.taysirbatniji.com/project/no-condition-is-permanent-2014/