FRAGMENTS explores an archeological dig led by Max von Oppenheim, a German diplomat and ancient historian, in Tell Halaf, Northeast Syria, at the turn of the 20th century. The project stemmed from a performance presented at the 2016 Marrakech Biennale, and evolved through a residency at the DAAD Artist-in-Berlin Program, and a show at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam. The completed project was presented in Tabet’s first major institutional solo at the Kunstverein in Hamburg in November 2017.
In 1929 Tabet’s great-grandfather, Faik Borcoche, was appointed by the governing authorities of the French Mandate stationed in Beirut as von Oppenheim’s secretary to gather information on the excavations the latter was conducting in the village of Tell Halaf in Syria. This encounter leads Tabet to uncover a story that connects his family to major historical figures. He raises questions on the survival of heirlooms, the preservation of archeological artifacts, cultural appropriation, museological practices, and migration patterns.
Rayyane Tabet is an artist who conveys complex ideas and powerful emotions through form and material. With each project, he reinvents his working techniques, bringing together unrelated facts that result in unexpected stories. FRAGMENTS includes a performance, drawings, sculptures, personal belongings and ready-mades which, together, become a multifaceted large installation. Against the backdrop of complex contemporary geopolitics, Tabet reconstructs the material remains of the Tell Halaf temple, tracks stone reliefs scattered in museums around the world, and assembles carpet fragments. Following the deconstruction and reconstruction of remains through the accidents of history, across time, generations and continents, the show draws on autobiographical notes and self-directed research, to explore stories that offer an alternative understanding of major events through individual narratives.