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Fluctuations on Time

Juan delGado




“To be historical”, writes philosopher Paul Ricoeur, “an event must be more than a singular occurrence, a unique happening. It receives its definition from its contribution to the development of a plot”. If narrative is central to written history, what might Ricoeur’s statement mean for artistic practices that operate with historical materials, such archives or found objects, or for artistic practices that use historical theories as subject matter?

What about the connection between historical and personal narratives? In what ways can artistic practices open a space to question how the status of whose narrative is being articulated? More generally, which are the textures of the relationship between contemporary art and an interest in historical phenomena? Can current artistic practices prompt a new sense of historical time, one reflected in a relationship with the contemporary as a category of the present that is, in itself, historical? 

Fluctuations on Time (Fluctuating Fragments) is part of a wider series of works envisioned as a “travelling diary”; it develops a complex dialogue with its audience and with the subjects of the artist’s  research into displacement and migration of people from Palestine after 1948 and beyond.


In this project, narratives of loss and trauma centred on the framework of delGado’s investigation. Arriving in Nablus as a stranger, the artist embarked in a journey which will take him to experience the reality that its inhabitants have lived through.

What remains the most significant underlying theme of the project is this hidden history that shows the restrictions of movement and the “controlled” anger of living under a military occupation, which to many is utterly difficult to bear. 

The artist, as a foreigner, wanders the territory, a place heavily charged with historical significations
. Without a plan or determined route, he walks down the mountains into the city, bumping into people who stop him for not particularly reasons. This ‘accident’ will trigger the encounter with a story that was waiting to be unfolded, which somehow will feed content into the experiential journey.

Longing Inspired by the Law of Gravity

Fadwa Touqan

Time's out and I'm home alone with the shadow I cast
Gone is the law of the universe, scattered by frivolous fate
Nothing to hold down my things
Nothing to weigh them to the floor
My possessions have flown, they belong to others
My chair, my cupboard, the revolving stool

Alone with the shadow I cast
No father, no mother
No brothers, no sisters to swell
The house full with laughter
Nothing but loneliness and grief
And the rubble of months, the years
Bend my back, slow my steps, blind me to the horizon

I miss the smell of coffee, the scent in the air
Its absence an ecstasy where I drown morning and night

Time's out and I'm home alone
With the shadow I cast

I miss the company of books
Their consolation through trouble and joy

I miss, how I miss my mother's ancient clock, family photos framed on the wall
I miss my oud
For all its silent, severed strings

Time's out and I'm home alone
The curfew hurts
It hurts me, no it kills me, the killing of children near my home

I'm afraid of tomorrow
I'm afraid of the unknowable resources of fate
O God, don't let me be a burden, shunned by young and old
I wait to arrive where the land is silent, I'm waiting for death
Long has been my journey O God
Make the path short and the journey end





First published as Wahsha: Moustalhama min Qanoon al Jathibiya in Al Karmel 72-73, 2002. By arrangement with the estate of Fadwa Touqan. Translation copyright 2006 by Tania Tamari Nasir and Christopher Millis. All rights reserved.

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