Brian Blum
September 27, 2018

An art exhibit from the collection of the Israel Museum is being displayed for the first time at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris. The groundbreaking exhibit is Ron Amir’s “Somewhere in the Desert,” featuring photography that shines a not always flattering light on the living conditions of Sudanese and Eritrean migrants in the Negev’s former Holot detention center.

Amir is a well-known Israeli photographer whose socially committed projects aim to draw attention to marginalized communities. The photos in “Somewhere in the Desert” were taken between 2013 and 2016 and consist of 30 large-format color photographs and six videos. The show runs through December 2.

Amir’s work made headlines in Israel when it was first exhibited, contributing to the contentious debate over government policies regarding refugees and asylum-seekers.

The exhibition is unique in that there are no people in the pictures. Instead, the photos show the areas outside of the facility where migrants created their own enclaves in the desert with makeshift kitchens, coffee bars, gyms and dining areas. Empty tin cans became their benches; broken pieces of wood their tables.

These “traces of life” without their creators convey both the creativity and survival instincts of these unwilling residents of Holot.

Ron Amir’s photos do not show any of the people in the Holot detention center. Photo courtesy of Israel Museum

For the Paris show, Amir included several new works made after the Holot detention center was closed earlier in 2018.

The Israeli exhibition seems particularly appropriate for France these days, which is dealing with its own refugee challenge, the Israel Museum notes.

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