The Shadow of Tree

The Shadow of the Tree

Film exhibition curated by Martha Kirszenbaum

14.12.2023 — 06.03.2024

Hours and Tickets

Curated by Martha Kirszenbaum

The Cypress is the tree’s grief and not the tree, and it has no shadow because it is the tree’s shadow.” 

Bassam Hajar

The Shadow of the Tree is a film exhibition presenting the works of artists originating from the Mediterranean MENA (Middle-East and North Africa) region. Its title refers to a verse by Lebanese poet Bassam Hajar who evokes, in a circular epigram, notions of displacement and disappearance while referring to the metaphor of the tree —a central element in the geological and cultural topography of the region, where cypresses and olive trees suggest rooting and exile.

Displayed on Madre Gallery, the exhibition unfolds over the course of eight weeks and around programs that bring together over forty works of moving image —from feature film to video and from documentary to music. It is organized into six programs bringing together three retrospective screenings of Basma al-Sharif, Valentin Noujaïm and Sara Sadik and, curated selections imagined by Martha Kirszenbaum together with Myriam Ben Salah, Stella Bottai and Asma Barchiche. 

The programmes will be introduced by a series of talks with some of the authors involved, according to the schedule below, as well as with personalities from the world of culture.

The presented works anchor the exhibition in a historical and political reflection on the MENA region, contemplating a plurality of representations, engagements and imaginary worlds in times of fragmented equilibrium, while expanding the region’s visual and cultural legacy through the use of the film medium in its broad acceptance. 


December 14 – 26, 2023
Program 1: Basma al-Sharif
Basma al-Sharif’s practice analyzes cyclical political conflicts and confronts the legacy of colonialism through satirical, immersive, and lyrical works. Her practice sits at the intersection of cinema and installation while focusing on human condition that relates to various landscapes, environments and geographies. Her works attempt to find understanding amid complex places, overdetermined by political upheaval, as a means of trying to imagine various ways of existing in such spaces.

December 27, 2023 – January 8, 2024
Program 2: I Heard You Laughing
I Heard You Laughing, co-curated with Myriam Ben Salah, reflects on the importance of popular culture, the omnipresence of technologies and the role of music and dance, while tackling a form of vernacular disorientalism and conveying a certain digital cosmopolitanism. It comprises selected music videos from iconic Middle-Eastern musicians of the 1950s-60s-70s alongside video works by contemporary artists that reflect the complexities of this often oversimplified ‘East-West’ configuration.

January 10 – 22, 2024
Program 3: Sara Sadik
Sara Sadik’s work questions the cultural representation of the French suburbs and youth culture in working-class communities from the Maghrebi diaspora through references of music, video games, street fashion or social media. She provides the viewer with initiatory scenarios where young men experience affective trials and explore their inner emotional life. They manifest the diverse bonds and codes that exist between outsiders who, while encountering some peers, develop new definitions of belonging.

January 24 – February 5, 2024
Program 4: Muscle Memory
Muscle Memory, imagined by Stella Bottai, takes muscle memory as a metaphor to address key dynamics within the construction of individual and collective subjectivity, cultural and gender identities, and immaterial heritage. Paying attention to acquired and transmitted knowledge, renegotiations of origin and embodiment, these works belong to the Southern region of Italy through their biographical and/or geographical connections, with a particular focus on the city of Naples as key generative context.

February 7 – 19, 2024
Program 5: Valentin Noujaïm
Valentin Noujaïm’s cinema conveys utopia, hidden dreams and fantastic political tales. His research revolves around anti-racist struggles, spatial utopia and traumatized bodies, being infused by the question of disappearance as a political tool questioning the relationships of power and domination through the prism of a strong ideal: revolutionary love or the love of revolution. 

February 21 – March 4, 2024
Program 6: I Will Sing for Joy
I Will Sing for Joy, conceived by Asma Barchiche, presents a series of fiction and documentary images originating from confiscated geographies, embodying a myriad of ways to map the narratives of their inhabitants. Combining different visual languages, these archives and landscapes intertwine to compose films that are shaped from a detail —a gaze, a bird, a letter, the soil, the land.

March 6 – 6.00pm
Finissage of the film exhibition: L’ombra dell’albero | The Shadow of the Tree curated by Martha Kirszenbaum
6pm Meeting of the curators Martha Kirszenbaum and Asma Barchiche, moderator Eva Fabbris, Director of Madre museum
7.30pm Screening of Bye Bye Tiberias (2023) by Lina Soualem
Film presented at “Giornate degli Autori” at the 80th Venice Film Festival
9.15pm Live performance by the percussionist Mohammad Reza Mortazavi
10.30pm DJ set by Samson
Free entrance subject to availability


Martha Kirszenbaum (b. 1983) is curator, writer and editor based in Paris. She graduated from SciencesPo in Paris and Columbia University in New York with an M.A. in Political History and Cultural Studies. She was the curator of the French Pavilion of the 58th Venice Biennale represented by Laure Prouvost, and founded and directed Fahrenheit, an exhibition space and residency program in Los Angeles. She collaborated with prestigious institutions, such as MoMA, New Museum in New York and Centre Pompidou in Paris taught curatorial practice internationally and regularly contributes to various publications and art magazines, such as Flash Art, Mousse, Kaleidoscope and CURA, where she sits on the editorial board.