French-Palestinian artist Taysir Batniji is the third recipient of Immersion, a French American Photography Commission, a program launched by the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès in alliance with Aperture Foundation. In Home Away from Home, Batniji brings together photographs, selections from family archives, drawings, and writings to explore the sense of dislocation and the different ideas of “home” experienced by various members of his family who immigrated to the United States from the Middle East. As Batniji explains, “The state of ‘between-ness’—cultural as well as geographic—is an issue that has preoccupied me since I first arrived in France in 1995. Exile, displacement, and mobility are themes that have driven my work for many years.”
The work Batniji has created, during visits to Florida and California, strives to connect to and understand his “American cousins” through their daily lives, the objects that surround them, and the homes they have made. The resulting photographs and portraits, interviews, and sketches from memory of the family homestead in Gaza question what it means to share a history, even among relative strangers—and what happens to a sense of the past and of belonging when opting for new identities and new homes.
Taysir Batniji (born in Gaza, Palestine, 1966) trained as a painter at An-Najah National University, Nablus, prior to continuing his studies in France at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Art de Bourges, and the École Supérieure d’Art et de Design Marseille- Méditerranée. His work incorporates drawing, video, photography, and installation, and has been shown widely in Europe and the Middle East, including at the Venice Biennial; Jeu de Paume, Paris; Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin; Kunsthalle Wien; and Witte de With, Rotterdam.