Artists: Rene Gabri & Ayreen Anastas , Khaled Hourani , Inass Yassin, Sandi Hilal & Alessandro Petti, Yazan Khalili, Suleiman Mansour, Sami Bukhari, Oren Sagiv, Yochai Avrahami , Miri Segal, Tal Adler, Yosi Atia & Itamar Ross, Hagar Goren , Manar Zuabi, Anjalika Sagar & Kodwo Eshun, Lida Abdul, Sanja Ivekovic, Simon Wachsmuth, Mauricio Guillen, Michael Blum , Lia Perjovschi, Hans Bernhard , Solmaz Shahbazi, Artur Zmijewski, Yael Bartana Oliver Clemens & Sabine Horlitz, Azra Aksamija, Inass Hamad, Jumana Emil Abboud, Ligna, Peter Friedl, Sala-Manca, Sameh Abboushi, Sean Snyder, Superflex.
Liminal Spaces is an eight-month international art project which aims at refuting the realities of occupation and its dynamics by examining notions of urban spaces, borders, mental and physical segregation, cultural territories and the possibilities of art within political frameworks. In light of the ever-growing hardship endured by Palestinians under Israeli occupation; persistent loss of land, deprivation of freedom of mobility, as well as basic political and civil rights, this international cooperative project takes as its starting point the spatial borders that characterize Israel’s colonial project. Frontier cities like Jerusalem have become laboratories of an urbanism of radical ethnic segregation. Since the Second Intifada and Israel’s unilateral construction of the Wall, declared illegal by the International Court of Justice at the Hague, this situation has intensified to an alarming degree and the urban fabric has disintegrated into a spatial and mental archipelago. This radical separation affects Palestinians in diverse ways; they suffer the loss of basic freedoms, restrictions on travel and severe surveillance that endanger the future of their society.
The Israeli project of territorial and demographic control has been deeply inscribed into the physical and social fabric of the intersecting regions of Israel and Palestine. Urban frontier zones like Jerusalem have become laboratories of an urbanism of colonial expansion and ethnic segregation that are unique in their extremes: a spatial matrix of ethnically-homogeneous insular realities, contained within spatial and mental frontiers. Everyday contact zones between the ‘Israeli’ and ‘Palestinian’ city and also between Palestinians on either side of the Wall, have eroded to the bare minimum. Physical frontiers are reinforced by the generic architectural vocabulary of aggressive seclusion, mirroring global trends of socioeconomic, ethnic and political segregation. Domestic and public spaces in the Israeli city have become increasingly militarized as preventative measures are adopted against the omnipresent fear of real, constructed terror and internal threats. Security, control and ambient fear transform everyday urban spaces into frontier zones, suburbs into gated enclaves, suburban shopping centers into fortresses. An equally strong impact is exercised by mass communication tools and media technologies that foreground radicalized images and condition the everyday perception of the other. For Palestinians, Jerusalem has become a closed and ever-shrinking city; open only to those holding an Israeli ID card and able to afford living in the city’s ever more congested neighborhoods.
Israeli walls and settlements (illegal under international law), bypass routes and checkpoints have become synonymous with a routine reality that integrates vocabularies such as ‘closure’ and ‘curfew’. In the context of increasing political and economic hardship, Palestinians are preoccupied with their mere everyday survival.
Road 60 is the historic traffic artery and connecting spine between Jerusalem, Ramallah and beyond. Its present condition could be considered prototypical of the alienation, segregation, and fragmentation that characterize the Israeli method of occupation. The once fluid space of connection and urban growth has dissolved into a complex array of buffer zones, security or containment zones, border areas, walls or sites of involuntary proximity and collision such as checkpoints (both permanent and temporary).
Before the erection of the Wall and the checkpoint, the road was a monument to the colonial relation between Israel and the Palestinian areas; urban growth was severely curtailed from 1967 onwards by a plethora of laws and zoning regulations. Today, the road has taken on more horrific dimensions as a result of the checkpoint and the related regime of control and surveillance. In its most central section within Jerusalem the road was relocated and widened in the 1980s to follow the no-mans-land that had divided the city between 1948 and 1967. Planned as a ‘boulevard for the united city’, in reality, it led to a further deepening of the fragmentation of the Jerusalem’s urban fabric by forming a wide buffer zone in the shape of an urban highway: an invisible wall and mental barrier. As the road advances north, it cuts through the suburban terrain of East Jerusalem where Israeli settlements face Palestinian enclaves and villages, passing the refugee camp of Shu’fat. Here, the road becomes a bypass road whose exits and entrances access the ethnically segregated satellites of Greater Jerusalem. Shortly before the Palestinian town of Ar-Ram, the new Wall swings into the road space dividing it along its central line with the aim of cutting off Ar-Ram (to the East) from the urban fabric of annexed municipal Jerusalem and the industrial area to the West. A new border regime was established, reducing points of crossing to official and increasingly sanitized checkpoints such as Qalandiya, one of the largest checkpoints in the West Bank. The checkpoint is characterized by a massive hub of Palestinian public transport and an informal market, as people arriving from the southern West Bank are forced to cross the checkpoint by foot before continuing their journey on a different bus into Al Bireh and Ramallah. Frequent incursions by the Israeli army have left the road in a state of ill-repair. The road passes several abandoned army checkpoints and Qalandiya and Al Amari refugee camps before entering the dense urban centers of the twin cities of Ramallah and Al Bireh.
Curators, cultural figures and artists developed this project through a series of meetings and discussions that sought to generate active participation of the art sector in developing modes of expression against the political status quo of occupation, dehumanization and oppression.
The curators have invited an array of local and international artists to participate in this project. Additionally, it is hoped that through participation in the project, new possibilities of contact and exchange will emerge on an individual basis and beyond.
The project will be launched with a conference from 10-12 March, 2006, including all project participants and local and international experts and curators. Through three days of guided walks, presentations and discussions, the conference will provide a forum for debating the possibilities and limitations of artistic strategies and research tools in providing a better understanding of the ambivalent nature of physical, mental and cultural frontiers. The conference will also mark the inauguration of a new space for contemporary art situated on Road 60 in the area of Qalandiya checkpoint. This space will serve as a resource and support infrastructure for the duration of the project, and a dynamic entity which provides in its physicality a direct response to the very notions being examined.
After the conference, eight months of research and development will begin, generating new art projects conceived by the participating artists and architects, through art residencies. Artists are free to further explore individually and on-site the examined area and produce site-specific work that explores the constitution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict’s everyday urban frontiers, and aspires to generate political, mental and social change. Over a process of six months, participating artists will be asked to develop specific tactics and strategies for addressing the physiognomy of specific sites and their everyday operations. Individuals or teams will research new methodologies that question the perception of the frontiers and challenge their accessibility, permeability and potential as contact and communication zones. Artists or collaborative teams of artists will be asked to develop strategies that explore, make visible, comment on, obscure, confront or interact with physical and mental frontier spaces. The program will encourage an emphasis on new forms of creative practice which adopts, investigates and subverts contemporary technology and systems of media communication, underlining the central role played taken by technology in the shaping of the physical and mental borders. After completion, works will be made accessible to the public. An internet site will accompany the process, which can be used by the participating artists for exchange of ideas and materials and serve as an interface for the public. The final stage of the project will be a major exhibition at the Gallery for Contemporary Arts Leipzig, Germany, in Ramallah Palestine and in Holon, Israel. In addition, the working process will be documented in an extensive catalogue.
The International project ‘LIMINAL SPACES’ has been jointly organized by the Palestinian Association for Contemporary Art (PACA), Digital Art Lab Holon and the University of the Arts Berlin.
Co-curated with Eyal Danon, Reem Fadda and Philipp Misselwitz