Ali Kaaf’s statement:
There is a story behind the idea of the Helmets series The beginning of it lies in the Altes Museum in Berlin. In one of the display cabinets there was a pile of ancient helmets. These relicts of fighters from different times – Muslim next to Roman, Greek next to Persian – representatives of cultures that used to fight each other – had been captured in there together.This association has been coming back to my mind ever since. The picture stirred up my memories of war helmets and masks from the old Syrian culture. They are a strong symbol for the oscillation between Good and Bad in history. I have always been fascinated with archeological excavation sites. After thousands of years, all that was organic, human, has dissolved into earth. Only resistant objects remain, revealing to us the scenography of a battle. In being an inorganic remnant, the mask, just as the helmet, functions as an imprint of the organic shape. It contains the duality of frontispiece and backdrop, positive and negative: a boundary, a barrier between inside and outside.
Like the death mask, they refer to what no longer is: the head that used to wear them; the face they used to cover.The functioning of war helmets reflects the hybris common to all warriors: helmets are meant to protect the head, they shall defy death. But the shell, this remnant of man, despite all cultural differences in shape, color and material, reveals what humans have in common: the vulnerable, the mortal, death.Is the helmet a symbol for protection in war or is it an imprint of the head, like a death mask – does it protect the vulnerable body or does it capture the moment of death?The helmet ceases functioning (as a protection for the head) and stands for itself. Does translating this function into an anatomical shape as a negative bring out vulnerability?Is art a means of resistance? Does it fight against disappearance?