Old Commercial Press, The Jerusalem Show VIII, 2016. Photo by Issa Freij. Courtesy of Al Ma’mal Foundation
Looking at the Palestinian side – every two years the Qalandiya International Festival of Contemporary Art (QIF) takes place. Part of it is The Jerusalem Show which is organised by the Al Ma’mal Art Foundation.
The name Qalandiya comes from a refugee camp and checkpoint on the border between Israel and the West Bank. But the festival crosses borders : expanding from Ramallah to Jerusalem, from Gaza up to Haifa and spreading over to Amman, Beirut until London. Qalandiya is a place, symbol of isolation, disconnection and fragmentation. Yet, the QIF challenges this separation in a positive way, by unifying the fragmented geography through visual art/ culture exhibitions and events. It offers a platform for Palestinians abroad and in their home-country to be seen and heard, should it be in the Haifa exhibition “People from the Sea“, “The Sea is Mine” in Gaza or in The Jerusalem Show (JS)…
In the JS over 30 international and local artists come together to interwind their stories in a group exhibition called “Before and After Origins“.
One example are the works of the Australian artists Tom Nicholson Comparative Monument (Shellal).
The works refer to 6th Century Byzantine Mosaic originally from Jericho, which were discovered and taken by a group of Australian (ANZAC) soldiers in 1918 and eventually got built into an Australian War Memorial. (More Info.)
For his mosaics, Tom Nicholson gives life again to the historical imagery but gives them modern colours. It reminds us again on how little we realize the divers historical, political, social and economic bondings (good and bad) there were before and still are between various countries.
The Old City is suddenly full of artists from far far away (South Africa, Australia, Birma…). You find yourself sitting with them and local artists in a lunch break or around a beer, talking about the life experiences of each one. Funnily you hear stories that resemble one another : Artists with aboriginal origins understand the fight of Palestinian people for keeping their territories. Others also experienced the loss of their home, for instance Jawad Al Malhi. Here his work House No. 197 series, 2010 ongoing. An artist living in Shufat Refugee Camp.
Or there is the same wish for change, a wish to turn towards something new…
George Mahashe, Camera Obscura #4 A Refusal to Allow Mediation, 2016 at the Knight’sPalace Hotel. Photo by Issa Freij. Courtesy of Al Ma’mal Foundation.
South african artist George Mahashe Camera Obscura #4 A Refusal to Allow Mediation, 2016 offers an unexpected upside down sight through the Old City Walls (more details – link to follow).
The curator of this year Vivian Ziherl continues an ongoing project called “Frontier Imaginaries“, examining settler-states like Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Israel. Using the mobility and the resources of contemporary art, this project stages connections between the different and yet similar struggles against colonialism.
Megan Cope RE FORMATION 1, 2016 (more details).
Megan Cope RE FORMATION 1, 2016 at Al-Ma’mal, The Jerusalem Show VIII, 2016. Photos by Aline Khoury. Courtesy of Al Ma’mal Foundation.
In the occidental world people question a lot the sense of contemporary art. Especially in France with publications such as Yves Michaud 1997 “La crise de l”art contemporain” The crisis of contemporary art. What is art for? Is it still connected to the people? Many questions are left open. The JS suggests an answer:
“If art can have one humble role amid the very grave conditions of politics at present, perhaps it is to make connections; strange, charismatic, even oblique connections. Where the map of political struggle appears evermore as an archipelago, perhaps it is an art of connections that can act to loosen and unravel an order of things that seeks to govern through a logic of ‘security’ given as division, confinement, isolation, and a growing industry of border technologies.” Vivian Ziherl 
Still, the main difficulty of this year’s JS is the danger of visitors confusing the divers problem regions with one another. Palestinians are NOT Aborigines and we should be careful not to put each conflict in the same box. Also we should keep in mind that this exhibition is organized by a foreign curator, and is therefore a vision from outside on the local situation.
Opening Event at the New Gate, The Jerusalem Show VIII, 2016. Photo by Issa Freij. Courtesy of AL Ma’mal Foundation
Opening Event at the Yerevan Restaurant, The Jerusalem Show VIII, 2016. Photo by Issa Freij. Courtesy of Al Ma’mal Foundation.
SinethembaTwalo, performance at Al-Ma’mal, The Jerusalem Show VIII, 2016. Photo by Issa Freij. Courtesy of Al Ma’mal Foundation
However, the exchange between international and local artists creates a beautiful bonding and the connections open paths for new projects, a way out of a suffocating political situation. It gives strength to realize that elsewhere in the world people struggle with similar problems.
From the text After of The Jerusalem Show