Four Songs Without Z. (2021)

Produced by Triple Canopy and currently on view on Criterion Channel

Zakaria Almoutlak is a sculptor from Homs, Syria, who lives in Belgium. Before joining the Syrian revolution in 2011, he worked in his father’s atelier, specializing in carving stone sculpture in the style of ancient Palmyra. Their forgeries of antiquities, commissioned for the black market by the Syrian regime, exist—uncredited—in the collections of several prominent museums around the world.

In 2011, Almoutlak was imprisoned for his participation in the revolution and his work as a media activist. He was forced to record a false confession in which he admitted that his activism was part of a Western conspiracy to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. The video, posted by the regime on YouTube, was used as propaganda and viewed widely. After suffering an injury during a bombing in Homs, Almoutlak fled to Europe in 2015. Two years later, he met Karthik Pandian and Andros Zins-Browne in Brussels, and they began to work together on a series of exhibitions and performances.

“Four Songs without Z” consists of renditions of songs written by Pandian, Zins-Browne, and Almoutlak, composed with and performed by Aliana de la Guardia and Ganavya Doraiswamy. The songs, created for a 2019 exhibition in New York City, evoke the fragmentation of Almoutlak’s life by the machinations of the nation-state, from his imprisonment in Syria to his absence from the exhibition due to the rejection of his visa application by the American consulate in Brussels. “Four Songs without Z” presents the songs as videos and concludes with comments by Almoutlak.