“Rayyane Tabet/Alien Property”
Time Out says
This project by Lebanese artist Rayyane Tabet recounts a family story linked to the discovery and excavation of a Neo-Hittite palace near the village of Tell Halaf in what is now Syria. The tale, as related to Tabet by his mother, revolved around the figure of Max von Oppenheim, a German aristocrat, diplomat and amateur archaeologist who led a dig at Tell Halaf over a 30-year period starting in 1911. He recovered artifacts dating to the first millennium B.C., which were brought back to Berlin and housed in a museum that was eventually destroyed, along with most of the objects, during World War II. During the 1930s, however, Oppenheim’s activities aroused the suspicions of the French authority controlling Syria at the time, believing he was engaged in espionage for Germany. They dispatched the artist’s great-grandfather, a local government functionary, to gather intelligence on Oppenheim, which ultimately turned up nothing. This “spy story,” as Tabet’s mother put it, serves as a springboard to a larger meditation on cultural theft, and the vicissitudes of time, that incorporates some of the actual objects—including shallow relief carvings—found at Tell Halaf.