Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sublimity and Anonymity

As well as five of the Young Palestinian Artists covered earlier in this blog, Al Hoash also showed another video work by Taysir Batniji and photography by Martin Leiboda.

Taysir Batniji video Transit presents a silent slideshow of photographic images made clandestinely at border crossings between Egypt and Gaza in 2003-2004. The photographs of people waiting are alternated with black screens used as metaphors for emptiness, the passing of time, restricted mobility and discontinuity. The video addresses notions of borders, travel and displacement as well as the situation of being between two cultures and identities.

Martin Leiboda's artistic interest has taken him to Afghanistan, India, the UAE, Africa and Palestine, which he has visited several times. His photographic series are neither reportage nor conceptional documentary, but are often directed at situations that in themselves seem indecipherable.
They are visible to the naked eye and yet elude or resist a deeper meaning. I believe that my images, arranged next to each other, have an accumulative effect and thus reveal their own grammar necessary to be legible. The image of the coffee shop in Ramallah is one such word in a long sentence that conveys my experience of this city. (Text from Jerusalem Show Catalogue)

As well as exhibiting at Al Hoash, Martin Leiboda also contributed to Youmna Chlala and Jeanno Gaussi’s Home Sweet Home project. The photographs in their book of the undisturbed interior of the Jerusalem apartment in which their project was activated, were taken by Leiboda.

There were also two artists in the show this year that chose to remain anonymous rather than risk being associated with an exhibition in “Israel”. The work of one of these was a video called Direct Negotiations (2007), which was projected onto the wall opposite Anadiel Gallery. This ironic work showed a cat seemingly trapped behind glass scratching futilely against the surface, stopping to rest and then repeating the futile scratching again.

The other anonymous artist was showing at Al Ma’mal itself and was allegedly part of a collaborative curatorial intervention by curator and writer F. Zahir Mibineh who invited Anonymous to present a recent video work. The video is allegedly a four-hour long, low-resolution documentation of the artist masturbating to something only he can see on his laptop while also intermittently appearing to nasally ingest a white powder. This video piece was an instrument to examine issues related to obsession, emptiness, stamina, insatiability, unfulfilled desire and the overwhelmed gaze, with a critical text accompanying the piece that attempted to shed light on these themes.

However, the video never arrived, the artist never arrived, the curator never arrived. In its place were the text, transcripts, biographies and summaries with a blank projection onto the gallery wall and re-titled Staring at the Sea. The video had been confiscated and the anonymous artist (briefly) arrested and accused of trafficking in illicit material. Allegedly.

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