Exhibition, Fiction and its Ghosts

by Rachel Pafe and Sakina Dhif

We propose to do an investigation of Past Disquiet: Narratives and Ghosts from the International Art Exhibition for Palestine, 1978 at MACBA, (February – June). An acclaimed archival inquisitor and budding messianic scholar form a duo to look into issues of repetitive times in the exhibition framework. We seek to use the schema of messianic time, as theorized by Gershom Scholem; that we all exist in a suspended time as we wait for the messiah, or final judgment to come. This connects to Jalal Toufic’s idea of a withdrawal of tradition following a disaster. He posits that following catastrophe culture is affected and becomes obsolete. The historical desire to readjust post-disaster can be seen in the repeating figure of the messiah over the ages. This dynamically connects to the exhibition, which was a utopian attempt. Organized by the PLO it was a traveling archival tour that sought to be displayed in other countries until it could be eventually repatriated to Palestine. During its first show, Beirut 1978, it was the tragic victim of heavy bombing, which destroyed the almost 200 donated works. We also seek to investigate how documents can be assessed by museum, or what happens in the attempt to create an exhibition out of lost artworks sans originals, artworks and the archive. In this schema, the role of the exhibition shifts and more than showing or accessing artists, it wants to retell a story that enlivens more complex political and economic relationships. The remaking, or impossibility of remaking, this exhibition turns its focus to that of research that re-invokes the ephemeral. The goal becomes one of re- materializing what has been destroyed and forgotten, the accessing of a network of artists rather than an individual.We here will introduce theories of ghosts in the field of seeing by Nermin Saybasili. What hopes do we imbue in the exhibition? What result do we expect from museums re-exhibiting past exhibitions? Past Disquiet responds to the disaster of the exhibition’s past destruction by creating layers of response: it is an reinterpretation of a ghost archive of an archive. We would like to use as a base the visit of an exhibition to operate physically within this suspension, to create another layer that interacts with its concepts of suspension, tradition, display, dispersal, archival ghosts, the contemporary and utopia. The exhibition becomes a tool of readjustment and Dhif and Pafe, intrepid voyagers, propose to document, explore, measure and complicate.


Rachel Pafe and Sakina Dhif are two researcher/writers/artists based between London, Washington DC, Brussels and the floating world. They both have graduated from the Mres Art: Exhibition Studies program at Central Saint Martins in London. They began to collaborate in 2014; they experiment and question the concepts of fiction, ghosts and repetition in fiction and academic writing.