Cardboard Castle

Alaa Hassan

The portrait of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad became a defining element in the urban landscape of Damascus, Syria. The omnipresence of an individual image leaves its imprint in people’s minds, making the physical image transcend into a visual impression. The presence of the leader is then extended to each individual living in the city.


This installation attempts to recreate that experience for non-Syrian audiences. The exposure to such propaganda may shorten the gap between the local and international perception of the situation in Syria and help create a more nuanced understanding.


The show consists of images taken by the artist, combined with posters and sounds from Damascus, Syria. The installation is also based in part on the artist’s book, Cardboard Castle.

About Alaa Hassan

Photographer and filmmaker Alaa Hassan was born in Syria in 1986 and raised in the country under the control of the Assad family. He started his photography work in 2006 and later developed an interest in filmmaking. Alaa left Syria after the war and moved to New York in 2013, where he is currently based. He recently produced the award-winning Danish-Syrian co-production feature documentary, The War Show. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival and won the Venice Days Award. His photography book, Cardboard Castle, looks at the political advertisement and the urban development of Damascus. The book was released this year with support from the British Council and the Prince Claus Fund.

photos by

Presented by

United Photo Industries

Curated by

Sam Barzilay