Part of the
exhibition

In the Presence of Absence proposals for the museum collection

5 Sep 2020 until 31 Jan 2021

Artist Page — 2 Sep 2020

In the Presence of Absence, the bi-annual show of proposals for the museum collection, presents 23 artists (collectives). This artist page includes a text on the work and an artist contribution.

WE HAVE ALWAYS KNOWN THE WIND'S DIRECTION (2019–2020) is a video installation composed of a combination of conversation, interview, and location footage. The work probes the possible burial of nuclear waste and the presence of man-made radiation in the south of the West Bank. 

The work follows research conducted by Dr. Khalil Thabayneh, a nuclear physicist who visited Palestinian villages, including Bedouin lands, to look into the presence of Cesium-137, an invisible but deadly radioactive isotope created only during nuclear fission. Halabi uses Cesium-137 as a protagonist in her work, and she embodies that by positioning red plastic filters in front of her camera lens in order to generate various shades of red. As the footage cycles between fragmented conversations and natural sceneries, a new context emerges and the landscape becomes underscored by what we hear; what initially appear as tranquil views start to unravel occult layers of ecological fatigue. The footage thus unveils a hallucinatory effect, generated as a result of the impossibility in detecting, through film, radioactive and other invisible forms of violence in the landscape.   

Roaming between the scientific and the subjective, the investigative dialogue reveals particular dynamics between the researcher and the artist, who remains present despite her posture behind the camera. The video also contains prose written by the artist herself and performed by the scientist. While based on a dream, this text encompasses the multiple perspectives of the rumored nuclear waste burials that Halabi came across during her research. 

Illustration by Haitham Haddad after Inas Halabi’s “WE HAVE ALWAYS KNOWN THE WIND’S DIRECTION,” 2019-2020.
Illustration by Haitham Haddad after Inas Halabi’s “WE HAVE ALWAYS KNOWN THE WIND’S DIRECTION,” 2019-2020.

The title phrase “WE HAVE ALWAYS KNOWN THE WIND'S DIRECTION” springs from a story that the artist heard which suggests that the specific locations for nuclear waste burials are chosen according to the wind’s direction. Whereas political actions often have ecological dimensions, this work invites viewers to consider radiation as a synecdoche for other in(tangible) forms of violence in the landscape and their operating systemic networks of power and control.

Inas Halabi (b. 1988) received her MFA from Goldsmiths College in London and was a resident at De Ateliers (2017–2019). Her work was presented in various exhibitions including the Mosaic Rooms in London, OFF-Biennale Budapest, and the 13th Sharjah Biennial’s Offsite project. Her practice is concerned with how social and political forms of power are manifested, and the impact that overlooked or suppressed histories have on contemporary life.

Inas Halabi, “WE HAVE ALWAYS KNOWN THE WIND’S DIRECTION,” 2019-2020, video still. Courtesy the artist.
Inas Halabi, “WE HAVE ALWAYS KNOWN THE WIND’S DIRECTION,” 2019-2020, video still. Courtesy the artist.

Artist contribution


The material on this page is part of Inas Halabi’s publication, Lions Warn of Futures Present, produced in 2017 as part of the Sharjah Biennial 13 Offsite: Shifting Ground project, curated by Lara Khaldi in Ramallah, Palestine. The combination of research, stories and images which make up this five-part publication, eventually led to the video work We Have Always Known the Wind’s Direction (2019-2020) displayed in the exhibition In the Presence of Absence.

Please browse and enjoy.

  • “Lions Warn of Futures Present,” image captured in al-Tuwaneh, South of the West Bank, 2017. Courtesy the artist. 
    “Lions Warn of Futures Present,” image captured in al-Tuwaneh, South of the West Bank, 2017. Courtesy the artist. 
  • “Lions Warn of Futures Present,” image captured in Khirbet al Taybeh, South of the West Bank, 2017. Courtesy the artist. 
    “Lions Warn of Futures Present,” image captured in Khirbet al Taybeh, South of the West Bank, 2017. Courtesy the artist. 
  • “Lions Warn of Futures Present,” image captured in Yatta, South of the West Bank, 2017. Courtesy the artist. 
    “Lions Warn of Futures Present,” image captured in Yatta, South of the West Bank, 2017. Courtesy the artist. 
  • “Lions Warn of Futures Present,” image captured in Tarqoumia, South of the West Bank, 2017. Courtesy the artist. 
    “Lions Warn of Futures Present,” image captured in Tarqoumia, South of the West Bank, 2017. Courtesy the artist. 
  • “Lions Warn of Futures Present,” image captured in Hebron, South of the West Bank, 2017. Courtesy the artist. 
    “Lions Warn of Futures Present,” image captured in Hebron, South of the West Bank, 2017. Courtesy the artist. 
  • “Lions Warn of Futures Present,” image captured in Bani Naim, South of the West Bank, 2017. Courtesy the artist. 
    “Lions Warn of Futures Present,” image captured in Bani Naim, South of the West Bank, 2017. Courtesy the artist. 

The Belgian Journalists

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Near the Caves Lies a Peach Orchard

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Trucks Remind me of Burials

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Who Will Dig into This Landscape?

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These screenshots were taken in 2017 during research trips to the south of the West Bank, to areas which may have been contaminated by radiation. 

Although these areas/villages are recognized internationally as Palestinian territory, they are not recognized by Google Maps and are either invisible on the map or appear as inaccessible by car.