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Jumana Emil Abboud: The Diver

Statement about her video The Diver selected for the Central International Exhibition of the Venice Biennale 2009.
May 2009

Working in the mediums of drawing, installation, video and performance, my creative motivations and interests relate to the dualities of our being, especially regarding one's relationship with personal and/or collective memory. Much of my creative language relates to an act of veiling and uncovering; I have an obsession - a delicate one I hope - with analysis of past juxtaposed with current cycles, and my creative expressions are metaphoric, whether collective or personal; reasoning with the paradox, the transparent, and traces of another.

"The Diver" is a video narrative that tells the story of a Diver who is anonymous in gender, name, and nationality, and is on an endless search to find ‘Heart’.

The places the Diver visits are nameless, referred to only as "earth, sea, sky, and snow." They are unclaimed territories the Diver passes through on his/her quest for ‘Heart’. Using the diving suit as the ultimate veil, disguise or defense mechanism, the Diver’s world (as his/her identity), is somewhat ambiguous, unknown, unclaimed.

On one level, the Diver is an outcast, it is certain that he/she has a home but it is not known where or who that home is. The Diver is endlessly searching, committed in his/her quest for ‘Heart’. Seeking the advice of others along this quest and wandering from one place to another. Yet, on another level, the Diver is portrayed as being a kind of "superhero", (he/she is applauded for being unique) an independent traveler who is ready to venture into "unknown places" with relentless will and calm solitude.


The inspiration for making the Diver came out of my desire to create a piece that was a consequence of nationalistic or gender-based associations, as a result of my coming from and living in a directly intense environment that is continuously fighting to claim its national rights (Palestine/Israel). Of course, it comes from a very personal place: I am Palestinian, I grew up in Canada and now I live in Jerusalem; I find myself in situations where I have to explain myself (my identity), to be in the defensive somehow, and although I'm grateful for the treasure of experiences I have, I often feel displaced and weak. I long for a time when peace can be restored in this world, but I'm told I am naïve.

The diver relates to my question into the "heroic". Several sketches for other works were made revolving on the theme of the hero, and I resolved to produce the Diver as the first of the "hero" series. Influenced from stories as Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and The Little Prince, while simultaneously reflecting on issues written about above, the Diver was born.

The Diver is a type of hero who is not directly linked to issues of nation or gender rights but rather, starts off with things 'small' in size and yet not separate from the core, the base, the center of all things: a heart. The heart could be representative of a home or love or freedom or unity; all of these encompassing some comfort, some serenity some peace. Thus, the heart in the video could be associated to the homeland but it is the ambiguity that interests me. He represents nobody in particular, and yet I wanted him to embody everybody.

My intention was to produce several chapters around this anonymous character. The first chapter was concentrated on the Diver's search for "heart". The second chapter would have the Diver engaged in another quest…and so on.

The Diver. 2004
Video, 4:35 min
English audio narration

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