Rachel Boyd looks at the work of Miriam Chefrad, a visual artist & film-maker soon to exhibit in the Glasgow School of Arts 2015 degree show.
Confusion subsides in an opening scene of a film, where a woman pours tea for kneeling guests. Silent, but for the pouring of tea; a soundtrack of a familial environment before the viewer watches the mute woman speak.
Subtract all audio, and the viewer is compelled to look at a moving image - this can only be a deliberate shift. A fourth year-student of Fine Art Photography at The Glasgow School of Art, Miriam Chefrad is well-versed in the gravity behind film and photography as a means for documentation. ‘Fragments’ acts in reflection to time spent both in Israel and Palestine. The film re-inacts, in a way, Chefrad’s own sense of displacement; where each familiarity is juxtaposed by unfamiliarity – each scene, ‘chaptered’, separated off from the next by a string of solemn, black pauses.
Her photographs share a similar narrative of disarray. Even the aged, long-faded colours of painted shop fronts appear spontaneously now; cut up and criss-crossed by cables and architecture which seem to compose themselves around the hopeful blue of a foreign sky. Something of these images appear as haphazard as the people themselves - refugees and natives – forcibly together yet politically separate.
Poetry humbles Chefrad’s work in the way it ties every theme, photograph or scene together into one context – creating what she refers to as a ‘humanising stream’. Chefrad’s own poetry – partnered with her own voice – vocalizes much of her film:
"...your voice is one that unites the rest of us, the jostling crowding others, into silence."
For this reason, the first and last scenes act as bookends. Both beginning and end seem to underpin the quiet politics of the scenes that come in-between; the marking of lambs for slaughter; the building of a refugee camp; a kite flown in the sky. But as Chefrad’s poetry so poignantly suggests – just as a voice may be quiet, that is not to say the ‘voice’ – in this case, the stories of the Palestinian people – are to go unheard.
One scene which most eloquently expresses this idea features a piece of fabric, swung across a tree. It is one of many in an orchard, founded upon soil so humid that it could be more easily likened to dust. The fabric binds and ties the tree is the same symbolic manner that it is implied that the people themselves are bound. This make-shift sculpture comes with obvious connotations of the human form, how it is swathed in cloth to mask bodies when deceased. The cloth falls from the tree dramatically, reminding us of how, in a previous scene, a woman’s full black dress billowed as she wandered along a sprawling beach. Like the untold stories of so many caught between the conflict of Israeli and Palestinian border, her voice is but a dandelion in the wind.
In the last scene, Chefrad’s spoken word guides us across a vacant screen, desolate and black. Through an orchard, past internationals; having arrived, she speaks of ‘two paths’. Contrasting to the first scene, the viewer is left with only audio, and no image. The next ‘chapter’ unveils two men – walking into view as if they were announcing themselves on cue – the young, leading the blind. There is a great amity between the pair, and the film finishes in song.
The viewer is suddenly cast back to the nostalgia of crossed feet and tea as we watch two men converse over warm-coloured land – there’s something relative to our own culture, here; parts of ‘Fragments which are as positive and real as they are saddening and enigmatic. ‘Fragments’, in itself, is made up of the same literature from which poets often structure themselves: a pattern which verses itself in documentation, reference, experience, before repeating itself again...fragmented in approach.