New platforms and expertise in artistic research and production
This article highlights three new artistic research initiatives in Palestine which focus on archiving and studying visual art production and creating new epistemological structures for researchers and artists to contribute new material to the field. These initiatives are connected through their geographical separation, all led by art institutions and initiatives operating in Jerusalem and Gaza. This physical distance accentuates the question of methodology, meaning and added value of such initiatives. The following projects were implemented over the last two years as a result of a partnership with the A.M. Qattan Foundation through the “Visual Arts: A Flourishing Field” (VAFF) project.
The “Yura” Online Platform | Jerusalem
The Palestinian Art Court – Al Hoash launched the online archive platform “Yura: A Knowledge Resource on Palestinian Visual Arts,” making available a digitised archive of art resources and articles including the archives of al-Wasiti Art Centre in Jerusalem, active between 1996 and 2002. It also includes the files of more than 200 Palestinian artists and the archive of al-Hoash Foundation and its publications. The platform will be continuously updated and expanded, and researchers are invited to contribute new material by allowing for more analysis of the archives, leading to further knowledge of the Arab visual arts field.
The first four research papers on the archive included contributions by Ala Younis, who examines the “Impact of the Gulf War in the early 90s on art production processes and the discourse of the Palestinian cultural field” by reviewing and examining material from the late 1980s until the mid-to-late 1990s. Researcher Yasmin Foqaha seeks to understand the language and terminology used in the art field and how they change within different historical periods, geographies and artwork in her paper, “The Archive and Arabic Art Language towards a Glossary of Terms and Definitions.” Faris Shomali's paper entitled “Calls for Art and Revolution: A Reflection on Artistic Production” questions the role of art in the revolution. The paper engages with artists' visions of their artistic practices and their relation to national liberation, thus examining different practices through reviewing introductions in exhibition booklets and media reports and conducting interviews.
New Art Researchers | Gaza
The Elitqa Art Group for Contemporary Art designed and programmed a research track promoting visual arts writing to increase critical voices and historicization of this field from the Gaza Strip. The Gaza blockade prevents art professionals from viewing artwork, meeting and discussing with artists and ultimately writing about the work. This has led to a lack of analytical examination of the Gazan visual arts scene.
Dr. Issa Deebi and Syrian artist Nisreen Bukhari developed and led this research track through a series of seminars and workshops to equip participants with artistic research methodologies by focussing on local contexts. The five participating researchers produced several articles tackling issues of media coverage of the visual arts and the artists' relation to their surroundings and how they are affected by socio-political contexts.
The contributions included an examination by Fatima Sharqawi of media coverage of contemporary visual arts in daily newspapers; a study by Majdal Nateel and Salman Nuwati of the relationship between cultural activities in the Gaza Strip and the academic curriculum at al-Aqsa University; a study by Ghanim al-Dan of conceptual work and its impact on contemporary Palestinian art in Gaza in the last decade; a research work by Hamad Daboos entitled “The Impact of Murals on the Visual Arts Scene in the Gaza Strip between 1987 and 2021”; and finally an article by Ali Sheikh Ahmad on the Palestinian political division on sculpture making in the Gaza Strip between 2007 and 2021.
New Interventions in Public Spaces | Gaza
Shababeek for Contemporary Art developed an applied educational track focussed on artistic interventions in the public space. This track is a relatively new project in the Gaza Strip, which attracted seven artists and is designed to provide theoretical and philosophical knowledge about the political and aesthetic aspects of public interventions. It also seeks to review and discuss the history of this practice in Gaza and how to apply it, building on the experience of local and international artists including Sliman Mansour, Basil Saadi and Rob Foreman. Each artist shared their experience on conceptualising the public space and its relation to the social and political. They also showcased their practices and interventions in public spaces, exhibiting their examples of public art interventions. The projects varied and included sculptures and installations dealing with notions of memory, femininity and feelings of loss and sadness resulting from the ongoing wars on the Gaza Strip.
These projects were presented with the artists who produced a collective intervention at al-Rumba skate park in Khan Younis, in northern Gaza Strip. The skate park was selected for various artistic considerations—most importantly for its location near the densely populated border areas that lack playgrounds. This intervention was produced in dialogue with the community near the park, while considering both the role of the public and of this type of art in creating a diverse audience.
Making knowledge accessible
The three initiatives not only made the research material available to the public, but also organised a series of talks, seminars and roundtables to share and discuss the content. The research was also used to inform exhibitions, attract different segments of society, keep ongoing discussions and encourage more contribution.