Huguette Caland

What We Do


Biennale Arte 2013

The 55th International Art Exhibition of the Biennale di Venezia took place between June 1st to November 24th, 2013 at the Giardini, the Arsenale and other locations in the city of Venice.

Biennale Arte 2013

Letter to a Refusing Pilot (2013)

Film and video installation. Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir Semler Gallery, Beirut/Hamburg; commissioned by APEAL for the Lebanon Pavilion in Venice, produced with the funds provided by APEAL.

In the summer of 1982, a rumor made the rounds of a small city in South Lebanon under Israeli occupation at the time. It was said that a fighter pilot in the Israeli air force had been ordered to bomb a target on the outskirts of Sidon, but knowing that the building was a school, he refused to destroy it. Instead of carrying out his commander’s orders, the pilot veered off course and dropped his bombs in the sea. It was said that he knew the school because he had been a student there, because his family had lived in the city for generations, because he had been born in Sidon’s Jewish community before it disappeared.

As a boy, Akram Zaatari grew up hearing even more elaborate versions of this story, for his father had been the director of that very school for twenty years. Decades later, during a public conversation with the filmmaker Avi Mograbi, Zaatari retold the story as his own and turned it into a fable and perhaps a truthful fiction. Then, after that talk, a book was published and he learned it wasn't all a rumor. The pilot was real. Born and raised on a kibbutz, Hagai Tamir had never set foot in South Lebanon but like Zaatari, he had studied architecture and he knew a schoolhouse (or hospital) when he saw one. His refusal to bomb the building had remained a secret known only among small circles for twenty years, until the day came when he found it useful to speak.

Now, across a border still defined by a state of war, Zaatari has picked up the other side of an impossible correspondence. Letter to a Refusing Pilot is a film and video installation that reflects on the many complexities, ambiguities and consequences of refusal as a decisive and generative act. Taking as its title a nod to Albert Camus' Letter to a German Friend, the work not only extends Zaatari's interest in excavated narratives and the circulation of images in times of war, it also raises crucial questions about national representation and perpetual crisis by reviving Camus' plea: "I should like to be able to love my country, and still love justice.”
Read More + Read Less -