At Last, I Hold Your Gaze (2018-2020)
At Last, I Hold Your Gaze by Sara Sallam is primarily born out of a rejection of dominant representation codes of ancient Egyptian mummies. The artist wishes to critique the forensic approach archaeology uses to relate to human remains as artifacts, ‘treating the bodies in the same way as coffins’, an approach that informed the way mummies are stereotypically portrayed in museum catalogues, archaeological journals, newspapers, and books.
Sara Sallam appropriates a series of historical images and instead of reproducing them as found, the artist covers them in linen and symbolically buries them in sand from Egypt, partially obliterating them. This step is an intentional choice to not perpetuate the violence of the archaeological representation, as well as a need to incorporate a tactile approach that materializes the image into physical matter, and also functions as a physical barrier to interrupt the fascination these visual representation elicit.
These new portraits are then justaxposed with fictional monologues describing the perspective of the mummy itself and its annoyance at being examined and probed as an object of study: an attempt to remind the viewer that a mummy is still the body of an individual, not just a mere archaeological object, a wish to ‘counter their silencing as inanimate objects accumulated in western archives’.
‘To reject the duplication of their undignified representation in the collected photographs, I cover their unwrapped remains first under linen, then I re-bury them in sand. In the monologues, I imagine their voices commenting on their treatment as objects of scientific study, being unwrapped, catalogued, photographed, and displayed. In doing so, they get to hold and return the archaeological gaze arrested on them for so long.’ - Sara Sallam
︎ Sara Sallam’s website