Letters from Aleppo

You hear shots of machineguns and explosions entering the exhibition space of the Open Walls gallery at Stattbad Wedding in Berlin these days, while to your left you see a photo-wallpaper showing an street-art artist on a rooftop of an abandoned house and the Spree and the S-Bahn rails near the station Jannowitzbrücke.

In the freshly opened exhibition „Letters from Aleppo“, Berlin based urban-art photographer Just is showing photographies he took during a visit at the civil-war struck Syrian city of Aleppo in 2012 alongside some of his regular works, which are displayed in the first two, very well lit rooms. When you pass from photo to photo, a lot of them showing streetartists at work, the sounds of warfare will get louder and louder and bring you to the second and most haunting part of the exhibition. Entering this nearly secluded second area, that is only dimly lit the setup dramatically changes.

photo of street in aleppo by just

destroyed medical vehicle in Aleppo : photography by just

Instead of streetartists you are confronted by pictures of urban warfare, destroyed houses, burned out cars, young fighters with kalashnikows, empty streets, piles of rubble and dirt, even one from a hidden bakery that produces bread for the inhabitants of the „liberated“ parts of the ancient city of Aleppo in a secret location that very much resembles an outdated warehouse. The photos are enriched by letters the photographer wrote to a blogger he knew, who published them as a kind of online diary of the photographers visit at Aleppo. The very personal impressions given in these letters and their intention to merely mirror the days and experiences the photographer made during his stay in the city (for him it was the first visit of a war-zone) do make them a stunning testimonial reflecting the insanity of warfare and the surreal situation of the inhabitants, involved or not, giving a point of view not driven by „story“ or „headlines“, needed by the media but rather by contemplation and personal observations. That is probably why the most heartbreaking and stunning photos of the days in Aleppo are those showing the inhabitants of an improvised sanatorium for the mentally ill, barely consisting of beds and walls. Their haunted faces seem to reflect the madness and violence, the absurdity and the horrors lingering around them in the city, while they are not able to understand fully what is going on.

The „Letters from Aleppo“ are also published in the current edition of swiss based magazin „Reportagen“. (german)

„Letters from Aleppo“
Stattbad Wedding
15.02. bis 02.03.
Thursday to Saturday 17.00 to 20.00
Admission 3 Euro

Über philippkoch

author and curator, specializing in literature and writing on visual arts
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