Cover image of the review
Installation view of Justine Youssef, Somewhat Eternal, UTS Gallery, 2023. Photo: Jacquie Manning

Somewhat Eternal

11 Nov 2023
UTS Gallery 3 Oct - 24 Nov 2023

First, I’d like to place Somewhat Eternal, Justine Youssef’s current exhibition at UTS Gallery, in relation to the current moment. Following Hamas’s 7 October attack, we have been witnessing a genocide unfold before our eyes, as the already besieged Gaza faces relentless and catastrophic bombardment by Israeli artillery and airstrikes. In just over four weeks, the far-right fundamentalist ethnostate has pulverised entire families and neighbourhoods and killed over 10,000 Palestinians. We are seeing the systematic erasure of an indigenous population under a colonial, Zionist regime which began long before 7 October, in 1948 (or as far back as 1917). In the face of these atrocities, we are also seeing a global movement mobilising like never before—protesting the ongoing Nakba and threatening the conditions of collective apathy, silence, and complicity which have, until now, allowed it to continue.

Installation view of Justine Youssef, Somewhat Eternal, UTS Gallery, 2023. Photo: Jacquie Manning

It is important for me to locate Youssef’s exhibition—curated by Stella Rosa McDonald (Curator & Manager of UTS Gallery), Tulleah Pearce (Assistant Director of Brisbane’s Institute of Modern Art), and Patrice Sharkey (Artistic Director of Adelaide Contemporary Experimental)—within this particular movement. This is precisely because it is an ode to a homeland (Lebanon) and family also marked by Israeli occupation. Unfortunately, nowhere in the exhibition itself is this context explicitly stated. While reference to her family’s lived experience and survival through “famine and military occupation” is made in the wall didactic, the details of this occupation and its relation to the broader regional conflict is left vague. Recently, UTS Gallery made an Instagram post for an upcoming workshop facilitated by the artist, which included a quote by Youssef herself that was more explicit about her family’s direct suffering under the Israeli’s occupation of parts of Lebanon between 1982 and 2000. The workshop, Youssef adds, “is a space to sustain each other as we protest, educate and call for an end to the siege on Gaza, the illegal occupation of Palestine and the ensuing risks that unfurl across our region.”

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