Fadi Sultagi's The Sanctuary of Bel, Palmyra
Opening reception November 7, 2015, 1-6pm at Street Road
“Awareness of a site, such as the village that no longer exists in Palmyra’s Sanctuary of Bel, which is not physically accessible, and cannot be neatly recreated for visitors to passively observe, can, however, be restored by descriptions of it/or narratives of the experiences related to it. In this way, through the experience of the visitor, the site that no longer exists becomes “visited”. "
– Fadi Sultagi, Alternative Guidebook: the Sanctuary of Bel
In 2011, Street Road first exhibited Sanctuary of Bel, Palmyra: An Experience of its Missing Layer. By Syrian-born, UK-based Fadi Sultagi, the work is a meditation on site-specific experience and its variability, deriving inspiration from the ancient Syrian temple of Bel. In light of the World Heritage Site’s August 2015 destruction at the hands of ISIS militants, Sultagi’s work has acquired a new resonance, offering a way to consider the vulnerability/fallibility of physicality as it relates not only to our works of art and architecture but to our experiences as organic beings.
Sultagi’s 2009 work interrogates visitor understandings of the historic Sanctuary of Bel, juxtaposing fragments from guidebooks and historical accounts produced between the years 1892-2000 with provocative philosophies of place from thinkers such as Martin Heidegger, Michel de Certeau, and Maurice Merleau Ponty. These dual components of Sanctuary of Bel, Palmyra: An Experience of its Missing Layer culminate in a third component, a creative “Alternative Guidebook” of the site. This resonant work of imaginative fiction as experience, on view at Street Road November 7, 2015- April 16,2016 complicates our concept of place, inviting participants to consider the Temple’s recent destruction as a component of, rather than a decisive end to, its story.