800 Years to Umm el-Fahem Art Festival – “Memory and Immigration” Exhibition


Curator: Dr. Esmail Nashif

Opening: Saturday, 19 May, 2012 at 11:00 At the Umm el-Fahem Art Gallery

The exhibition "Memory and Immigration" addresses anew the central issue of the Palestinian society today: the coping with the tragedy of 1948, and its consequences on the life of the society since then. The uniqueness of the exhibition is in that that it explores the subject of visualizing memory and immigration through juxtaposing two different layers. The first layer is the current deep changes that engulf the Palestinian society as part of the changes in the Arab World. The second layer is the developments in the technological tools that enable the registering and the storing of different aspects of the past events related to the Palestinian tragedy, such as documentations, photos, films. The juxtaposing of these two layers seems to shed light on the deep processes of re ordering the Palestinian socio-visual field. It seems that the previous socio-political order, mainly based on national grounds, is destabilized. The exhibition is based on the understanding that a new visual language is being shaped by these new inter-junctions of socio-technological nature. The new visual langue sees to push for more freedom for the artistic domain in treating the issues of memory and immigration that the political discourse had a monopoly on the manner of addressing them. The exhibition tries to register the aspects of these changes of the Palestinian visual filed and the manner of expressing them in the artistic field.

                In order to try and cover most of these aspects of change a wide range of artists were chosen to participate: five Palestinians artists, one Tunisian-French artist, and one American artist. All of them though, address the issue of the processes of re-visualizing memory and immigration on the documentary as well as on the artistic levels. The artists are: Osama Said, Zohdi Qadri, Mohamad Fadel, Anisa Ashqar, Mohand Yaqubi, Ismail Bahri, and Fazal Sheikh. Osma Said's work is four paintings from last year in which he visually explicates the moment right after the tragedy. It is the moment of constituting the victim as such. Zohadi Qadri brings his paintings from various periods that address the body and materiality of the work itself. By these interventions he seems to ask about the body and materiality of the Palestinian tragedy and the manner of their behavior. Mohamad Fadel exubits three paintings from his recent series Honey (2011), in which he visualizes the unbridgeable gap between the reality of refugee-hood and its utopias . In these paintings we find that the honey-like color environment is in sharp contrast with the weapons and the militaristic figures who hover in them. Anisa Ashqar's video "Save the date: Afternoon" (2011) takes us for a walk in the remnants of the Palestinian city. She exits Haifa Musuem buildings and roams the alleys of Wadi Nisnas as if looking for her lost city only to fail to find it. She closes the roaming by going back to the museum. Mohand Yaqubi's video "The Bridge" (2012) reconstructs the story of the Palestinian exodus via Allenby's Bridge in 1967. He took different scenes from seven films on the Palestinian tragedy, and used them to rebuild the exodus un a very slow motion tempo. By this intervention, the viewer is obliged, in sense, to cross the bridge again with the Palestinian refugees. Ismail Bahri's Orientation (2010) is a video that documents the artist filming his walk around Tunisia with a glass full of ink. Each two to three minutes the artist stops and puts the glass on the ground the camera zooms in the image reflected on the surface of the ink. We see ephemeral images of the up-side-down Tunisia. The Arab post colonial city is a kind of a future mirror in which the lost Palestinian city could be seen and inspected. The photographic work of Fazal Sheikh Erasure (2012) focuses on collecting and registering the traces of the displaced Palestinian communities in general. In this exhibition, he introduces the part related to Umm el Fahem communities. The portraits, the old family photos, and the abandoned house are the traces of a lost community that Fazal register anew to tell the story of erasing the whole communal life in 1948.

                The different artworks of the exhibition examine the object memory and immigration by using a visual metaphor based on two principles. The first is that of the walking and roaming in the ways of return, as with the works of Anisa Mohand and Ismail. The second principle is the weight of the body of the tragedy of 1948, as with the works of Osama Fazal Zohadi and Mohamad. It seems that the interrelations between the heavy weight of the body of the tragedy and the walking in the ways of immigration/return will continue to organize the manners through which the Palestinian view themselves and are viewed by others.

Curator: Esmail Nashif.