First Person Political: Artists on Israel/Palestine

Tuesday 25th February

A special evening in discussion with the artists Uriel Orlow, John Smith and music collective Raast.

Bergen Assembly 2013 – An Initiative for Art and Research, Bergen, Norway

Uriel Orlow’s Unmade Film: The Proposal (performance-lecture, 45 mins) is the last in a series of works that point to the structure of a film without ever fully becoming one. It takes as its starting point the mental hospital Kfar Shau’l in Jerusalem. Initially specialising in the treatment of Holocaust victims–including a relative of the artist–it was established in 1951 using the remains of the Palestinian village Deir Yassin which was depopulated in a massacre by Zionist paramilitaries in April 1948. The lecture performance envisages this impossible film in retrospect and presents its premise.

Music for oud, guitar and voice performed live by members of Raast Collective .

p_dpJohn Smith presents Dirty Pictures (video, 14 mins). Moving from one hotel in Bethlehem to another in East Jerusalem, the filmmaker encounters a series of problems involving a ceiling, a video camera and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Dirty Pictures is the seventh episode in John Smith’s Hotel Diaries series. 

Followed by a discussion about the politics of art. What sort of critical responses to Israel/Palestine are British-based artists engaging? What are the opportunities and limits of art in a situation of injustice and on-going trauma? Palestinian artists have called for a cultural boycott of Israel – how should British artists respond?


“Upon the horrific realization that Kfar Sha’ul is in fact Deir Yassin, Orlow set out on a journey to probe the meaning of one painful event in history obliterating the other, in a context of historical intimacy between both… Orlow’s Unmade Film reconstructs a narrative of space, time and historical blind-spots that adds layers of unsettled new meaning to questions of subconscious pain, trauma and suffering in the contexts of obliterated geo-histories.” Hanan Toukan

“To the question of how one travels and collects images without objectifying, John Smith answers by shooting the generic in place of the exotic.  In Dirty Pictures, an Englishman travels to Palestine but instead of showing us the long lines at the checkpoints, the military artillery on display or the unbearable poverty inflicted on the general population, he elects to shoot the familiar interior of two common hotel rooms.  But nothing is ever entirely banal in the West Bank or so it seems.  As the wind from the window of his room hits the ceiling, the tiles start moving up and down. Off-camera, Smith explains that this newly renovated hotel reopened recently after being requisitioned by the Israeli army in 2000 at the start of the second Intifada because of its strategic location on top of a hill.  The surreal movement of the tiles becomes a poetic reminder of the building’s haunted past.”    Frédéric Moffet

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