Refraction: Moving Images on Palestine
Curator: Shaheen Merali
Artists: Mohammad Al-Hawajri, Kamal Aljafari, Tayseer Barakat, Mike Hoolboom, Khaled Hourani, Khaled Jarrar, Josh Jones,
kennardphillipps, Inzajeano Latif, Manal Mahamid, Laila Shawa,
Nasser Soumi, Tarzan and Arab
Private View - Tuesday 18th December 2012 18:30-21:30
Exhibition dates: 19th December 2012 - 16th March 2013
Refraction is the term used to describe the bending of light or sound as it passes from one substance to another. In this curatorial endeavor, it is used to measure the challenging times that we find ourselves facing - the measure of cultural confidence in the midst of such chaotic conditions.
Refraction describes the use of self-discipline and deep insights, of pioneering new directions to explain the unexplainable wrath and evil of war, massacre and the dearth of values. In examining the evidence and re-evaluating it within the notations of artists and filmmakers, the exhibition, Refraction, is the measure of the bend of light as it enters from one source into another, seemingly suggesting how artists are contesting key situations about Palestine, as a place, as a memory and as a shared heritage.
The exhibition, will examine issues of balance, fairness, proportionality, perspectives, and the use of power to find forms of caring, nurturing, and protecting what we need and feel to enable us to move through the complexities of a life once lived but now forcefully abandoned.
Never mistaking a wish for a certainty, the artists and the artworks speak of histories that go beyond the habitats and agonies of battlefields and battling grounds, to speak of human folly in small and individual acts of catastrophic instincts. Here, works have the power to shock, surprise, silence and outrage with high-tension energies, which form, from these difficult histories, a series of proportionate inner values that the world will recognise as life beyond excuses for inaction. These energies help us rise to sustain some sense of urgency as to what we care about, and bring forth our unique abilities wherever opposition falls within our daily goals.
The French-Swiss artist, Jean Tinguely (1924-1991), once stated “Art is the distortion of an unendurable reality... Art is correction, modification of a situation; art is communication, connection... Art is social, self-sufficient and total”
The ground floor of the Gallery is dedicated to the works of three different, but pertinent, notations. On entering the gallery, one encounters the honest and beautifully captured testimony for the right of return of a family from the Handarat Camp near Aleppo, Dreams of Return (2010), by Nasser Soumi. In the screening space, Lacan Palestine (2012), the film by Mike Hoolboom, allows the fragments of historical and biblical allegories of “a land that is not a land” to be evaluated in split seconds and minutes from a myriad of sources. Finally, two large monochrome canvasses by Mohammad Al-Hawajri offer a poignant reminder of the power of painting of stilled lives.
In the stair hall, hang a series of photographs based on film posters by Gaza based twin brothers, Tarzan and Arab, who amplify their love of action genre films, with their warring masculinities and spaghetti-type expression of angst and rage, except their notations are about Operation Cast Lead (2012), and the aptly named Bringing home the goods (2012).
The selected works in the lower gallery range from large-scale photographs of the minutiae of daily lives in Bi’lin and Hebron by the London-based photographer, Josh Jones, to a monumental eighteen meters long quadrilateral photo-collage, Palestine (2008) by Peter Kennard and Cat Picton Phillipps, aka keenardphillipps. The necessity to reframe the contemporary and the historical continues as a visual unfolding, a chronology of Palestinian history, from multiple but personal understandings of the world, of protractions and conflicts, of dwelling on the catastrophe known as the Nakba in 1948 to its modern political history defined by five major wars. One begins to realise the consistency of signifiers, for the people they describe, the places they disclose and moments they encapsulate.
keenardphillipps commissioned work, Palestine (2008) covers the northern two-story high wall of the gallery, whilst Laila Shawa’s mammoth sculpture, Stealth Cross-Metamorphoses (2000), with its four rockets, hangs between the two floors. The second work by Shawa, is a terse videowork, Gaza Fashion Week (2010) of a Palestinian woman, isolated in a cage by a checkpoint, to be examined for an incendiary device. The incidence is captured on a CCTV, which Shawa uses to expose the violent relationship between a suicide bomber and the Israeli Defence Force tactics of control.
Further works include two films by the Berlin based Palestinian/American Kamal Aljafari. The one hour experimental work, Roof (2006) and the three minute Balconies (2007) are as much an investigation of Israeli practices in the Occupied Territories as about Palestinian subjectivities and relationships, their concerns about the disconnect and the power of erasure, polarisation and barbarism.
In the middle of the lower gallery stands Volleyball (2012) from the Concrete series, the lonely volleyball by the Ramallah based performance artist Khaled Jarrar. The volleyball is made of the concrete that Jarrar chipped away from the 8-meter high wall that divides his community. The volleyball is accompanied by a documentation of Jarrar with a hammer and chisel, passionately destroying the ugly symbol metaphor of the occupation. These concrete chips were recast as a concrete volleyball - the very symbol of the gendered game, made dead.
The final work in the exhibition sited in the Gallery’s library, is Al-Ghurba - the Exile (2012), by London based Egyptian-Pakistani photographer, Inzajeano Latif. It is a series of intense portraits of Palestinians living and working in London. Subjects and subjectivities which remain passionately engaged with a homeland yet to be recovered and made secure through their networked communities and activism.