The exhibition Points of Departure is the culmination of a year of collaboration with ArtSchool Palestine, the British Council and the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). Presented at the ICA, the exhibition will be among the highlights of the 2013 Shubbak Festival in London (22 June – 6 July).
Points of Departure begins as a set of thoughtful explorations into the phenomena of liminality. A condition in which one’s sense of identity is diffused, liminality leads not only to states of dislocation and disorientation, but also to new perspectives. From this starting point, all the exhibiting artists undertook research-orientated projects in the UK and Palestine, seeking to make meaning, and create new narratives, in response to urgent contemporary questions around nationalism and identity, history and place.
Points of Departure presents new commissions by Palestinian artists Jumana Emil Abboud, Bashar Alhroub, Bisan Abu Eisheh, and UK artists Jeremy Hutchison and Olivia Plender – all of whom undertook eight-week residencies in London and Ramallah respectively. In relation to themes raised by the project and the works produced, the exhibition also features a seminal work by Ramallah-based artists Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme. The exhibition has been curated by Rebecca Heald with the support of Mirna Bamieh.
Bisan Abu-Eisheh’s installation acts as an introduction to the exhibition. Intrigued to hear how the British participants in the exchange described their experiences of Palestine, his piece Welcome to Palestine explores the recounting and portrayal of Palestinian geographies. The installation is centred on an analysis of a heavily biased guidebook Jerusalem, Israel Petra and Sinai that contains minimal amounts of Arabic history and key phrases only in Hebrew. The guidebook is filled with comments and notes contributed by the audience during the first presentation of Points of Departure in Ramallah.
Bashar Alhroub continues his distinctive investigation into the relationship between memory and place. For his video entitled Attaba (meaning ‘threshold’ in English) Alhroub presents the site of his residency as one infused with personal memory and attachment despite having no past relation to it. His series of figurative collages, composed of amassed paper materials from his daily excursions in London, become records that transfer public experiences to a private context.
Jumana Emil Abboud’s work relates directly to ritual, anthropological theories of the liminal. Entitled I Feel Nothing, her installation, made up of drawings, photographs and a performance video, investigates cultural notions of touch, and how it can be read both in psychoanalytical and metaphorical terms. The National Gallery’s Noli me tangere by Titian, the famous depiction of Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene at his burial tomb, is the starting point for Abboud’s research on related folklore, fairytale, sacred sites and objects.
Olivia Plender’s two-channel video installation, To Turn a Blind Eye, explores questions of invisibility as a metaphor in relation to historical narration. The first film is a response to a description of a card game in Jean Genet’s book Prisoner of Love, about the time he spent in Jordan in the early 1970s during the Palestinian Revolution. Genet only reveals at the end of the book that the card game is a mime played with invisible cards. This scene was re-enacted by a group of 20 young Palestinian actors attempting to a make a believable performance of playing a card game through gestures alone. In filming the rehearsal rather than the finished performance, Plender captures the moments where performers switch between the fictional identity and their everyday identities, leaving room for them to question the role that has been given to them, the format and the activity of the game.
Through the manipulation of manufacturing and commercial modes of production, Jeremy Hutchison engages in what he terms “rituals of sense- making”. Collaborating with employees in factories and supermarkets in Ramallah and Nablus in orchestrating a series of actions, Hutchison creates situations that embrace confusion and propose alternative kinds of logic within commercial environments. In a jeans factory for example, Hutchison asked the workers to make jeans that somehow expressed what it was like to be someone making jeans in Nablus. The result is a series of unwearable, awkwardly shaped visual metaphors presented as part of an immersive installation, which questions the semblance of normality Hutchison experienced during his time spent in the West Bank.
But what of the present more generally and the so-called ‘Arab Spring’? Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme address these subjects in their installation The Incidental Insurgents. Through telling the stories of a range of significant twentieth century bandits, the artists present an investigation into the possibilities of the future. Abbas and Abou-Rahme ask how this time of radical potential can be inhabited, and what we can learn from the past and use to help construct the next chapter.
Points of Departure will include an extensive public programme of talks and events. For full details please visit www.ica.org.uk.
26 June—21 July 2013 (Tue—Sun, 11:00—18:00 Thurs, 11:00–21:00)
Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, London, SW1Y 5AH www.ica.org.uk