Heterotopia as the process of artCurator Catherine David discusses the First Contemporary Art Biennale of ThessalonikiBy Iota Myrtsioti - Kathimerini
Almost every major arts and culture venue in Thessaloniki is hosting some part of an enormous, ambitious art exhibition this summer. Titled "Heterotopias" and featuring 77 artists from 41 countries, the First Contemporary Art Biennale of Thessaloniki addresses the issue of "center versus periphery." Inaugurated at the State Museum of Contemporary Art on May 21, the exhibition is about locating "heterotopias" (misplacement or displacement) in global art and juxtaposing the real world with that of art.
The philosophy behind organizing yet another international biennale of contemporary art is explained by the acclaimed art historian Catherine David, former director of the famed Documenta art expo in Kassel, Germany, and currently one of the three curators responsible for the Thessaloniki event. The French curator was invited to recommend works by artists from the Middle East. Contemporary Art Museum director Maria Tsantsanoglou is curator of art from Central Asia and from the countries of the former Soviet bloc, while Jan-Erik Lundstrom ďż˝ director of Sweden's Bild Museet in Umea - recommended artists from Africa and Latin America.
David's recommendations reveal a generation of artists who worked according to their own rules, under particular political circumstances, and who transformed reality in a truly essential manner. For many of the artists this is the first time their work will be on display at an international event.
What can yet another biennale offer?
I don't feel as though we are starting from zero, because the State Museum of Contemporary Art already has a world-renowned collection (the Costakis Collection). The event, furthermore, will offer an opportunity for the public and critics alike to become acquainted with works of art that are not normally represented in conventional international biennales organized in Europe.
Does this event have a possibility, in your view, of eventually becoming on a par with the major biennales (Venice, Sao Paolo, Sydney, Berlin)?
There are biennales that are held mechanically and artists who show their works as decor. A very interesting event in my opinion is that at Sao Paolo, because it expresses the social environment through dialogue. Berlin's, even though it has been held six times already, has failed to create a particular profile. I think that for a biennale to survive among others, it must have an identity. Of course, once the Thessaloniki event is over we will see what the city can do to promote and support it. But it is very important not to become restricted to the two dozen artists who recycle contemporary art.
Do you see any early indications as to the identity of the Thessaloniki event?
All the curators are working with artists who in the main don't belong to the so-called Western world. Our objective is not to present an exhibition that is exotic, but to present work by unknown artists who will initiate a dialogue with the so-called Western world. What is certain though is that we are not looking at their art through a protectionist or colonialist perspective.Read the entire article hereSource:
Qalandia 1948-2087By Wafa Hourani, Photolife, 2009
1948 | Israelis took over Palestine and ethnically cleansed hundreds of Palestinian villages and towns. Palestin- ian refugees were forced to settle in many camps in the surrounding region. Qalandia camp was located in a piece of land between North Jerusalem and South Ramallah became home to thousands of refugees. ( Qa- landia was named after a nearby airport by the same name. )
1967 | The Israelis occupied the rest of Palestine, and Qalandia airport became a lonely military zone, except for the fact that it was located at the entrance of Ra- mallah, where many visitors from Jerusalem passed.
1987 | The first Intifada erupted and the airport became a line of confrontation between Qalandiaâs residents and Israeli soldiers.
2001 | The second Intifada broke out. The Israelis built a massive checkpoint next to the airport which overshad- ows the camp. Qalandia checkpoint became the main crossing between Northern and Southern Palestine.
2003 | The Israelis built the notorious apartheid WALL to exclude the Palestinian population in the occupied West Bank. Qalandia became even more isolated from its surroundings by giant concrete blocks.
2005 | Yasser Arafat died in a hospital in France and the Palestinian people are left to fill the void left behind by this icon of their national liberation struggle.
2016 | A Palestinian from the camp by the name of Abu Jamil missed the sea and the fish so much, he dug a pool beside his home and brought a golden fish to swim in it. People in the camp say that Abu Jamil brought us the sea. The fish loved the camp so much,
she got used to the people visiting her laying in the sun and having barbecues in her pond. Soon Abu Jamilâs golden fish became a local attraction for the refugees.
2019 | After many years of living in what became an overcrowded open air prison, the Palestinian Mirror Party ( PMP ) decided to cover the WALL with mirrors to create the illusion of more space and seeing their re- flection everywhere, people began to wonder how they got in there.
2020 | Qalandia School changed its name to Impossible School. And the students closed the basketball rings. No goals in the game.
2023 | An Israeli company for tourism built near the checkpoint a discothĂ¨que bar with an aquarium and one golden fish. They called it Checkpoint Bar to en- courage trippy-political tourism.
2025 | Palestine made the Guinness Book of World Re- cords for the biggest mirror in the world that caused many tourists to come and visit Palestine.
2028 | Checking in the checkpoint changed from palm scanning to an audiovisual-check. As you look into the blue light you say Weehaa.
2030 | The Israelis fixed laser lights on the holes of the WALL to tighten security. The Palestinians were furious as the holes were meant to help remove the WALL, not to fix laser points in it.
2033 | The Palestinians start talking about the revolu- tion again. They build the STONE GARDEN for the 50th commemoration of the first popular Intifada in 1987.
2037 | The Fish died, all the camp cried and said the fish died, the sea died. They took out the water and bur- ied the fish and called it the FISH TOMB. Then the visits changed from picnics, singing and dancing to a Mar- tyrâs memorial, where flowers are laid and silence kept.
2044 | The Palestinians improved their economic situ- ation after a complete boycott of Israeli products. This prompted many investors to move from Dubai to Ra- mallah.
2047 | The Palestinians built a garden in the camp and called it the âFlower Gardenâ. It became a romantic space for young and old lovers from the camp.
2049 | Students at Qalandia School opened their bas- ketball rings but they made it very big.
2052 | Palestinians refuse to say âweehaaâ while pass- ing the checkpoint.
2058 | The Israeli government shut down the Mirror Party offices in Jerusalem as the police launch a cam- paign against anyone possessing a mirror.
2060 | The Israeli company for tourism changed the golden fish in the Checkpoint Bar to shark fish to pro- vide more adventure for the tourists.
2061 | The Mirror Party reopened their office in Jerusalem. 2063 | Palestinians use the mirrors on the wall as an
electricity power plant.
2067 | Three candidates from the Mirror Party won seats in the Israeli parliament.
2069 | The Mirror Party celebrated their 50th Anniver- sary by creating âThe Mirror Gardenâ â a garden with a big hand mirror where people can look at themselves that came with removing the lasers lights from the WALL after the International Criminal Court rules in their favor.
2072 | Students at Qalandia School made their basket- ball rings smaller to match the size of the ball exactly, for more precise aims.
2075 | Cinema Dunia opened along with the Qala Mod- ern â the first modern museum in Qalandia.
2081 | Someone from Jerusalem buys the Checkpoint Bar from the Israeli tourism company that owns it and converts it to AL Ajami Restaurant - Bar, featuring five golden fish in the aquarium.
2085 | The new Israeli government removed Qalandia checkpoint. The Palestinians kept the mike left be- hind and change the checkpoint to Speechpoint, a free speech area where people can say or sing what they like.
2087 | One hundred years after the First Intifada, Qa- landiaâs residents celebrated in the Stone Garden after the Mirror Partyâs historic agreement with the new Is- raeli government, which gives the Palestinian the 1967 lands ( the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem ) along with the right of return for all refugees.
They remove the cement from the wall and fix mirrors on the other side. For some it becomes known as the Mirror Wall, while I call it Maya Wall.
Fatal Strategies By Greer Crawley
The analysis of miniature objects and of secrecy con- verges round questions of what can be seen, by whom and in what circumstances. It may also manifest itself in the form of what is conceived as exceptional sight- edness. ( Mack 2007: 119 )
Abstract | My research is located in the theatre of war and is concerned with the military use of terrain models, camouflage and decoys to create strategic scenarios. This study forms the context for an exploration of the de- ployment of similar scenographic strategies in contem- porary artistic practice. Drawing on my research into the use of simulation and deception in the target landscapes of modern military conflict, I discuss how artists are representing the distortions, disinformation, the carto- graphic omissions, the black worlds, and the silences of erasure and re-location; annihilation and elimination.
By addressing the myths and narratives of dis- closure, secrecy and invisibility, their projects present a challenge to the ascendancy of military procedures and work to reclaim the real.
For something to be meaningful, there has to be a scene, and for there to be a scene, there has to be an illusion, a minimum of the real, which carries you off, seduces or revolts you. Without this properly aesthetic dimension, mythical, ludic, there is not even a political scene where something can happen. ( Baudrillard 1999: 1 )
The Palestinian artist Wafa Houraniâs work rep- resents the scenographic and often fatal strategies for staging the political. Through the optical and meta- phorical forms of his models dioramas the political scene is set and the narratives of appearances and disappearances,inclusion and exclusion, observation and control are told. His work illustrates the Baudril- lardian illusion â the tiny distance that makes âthe real play with its own realityâ ( Baudrillard 1999: 173 ).
Hourani speaking of his installation Qalandia 2047 has said: My artworks are politically strategic. I fixed the mirror on the wall from the Palestinian side as a sug- gestion for a new political party, the Mirror Party that appears in the future in Palestine after Fatah and Hamas. This kind of complex conflict needs long term projects and strategic way of thinking. Each Palestin- ian needs a mirror so that they can see themselves. ( Hourani 2009 )
Qalandia is the story of a refugee camp estab- lished in 1948. It tells how the airport nearby changed from Qalandia airport to a military zone and then there was a checkpoint and then the separation wall. Origi- nally working as a documentary filmmaker, Hourani stopped âfilming realityâ and began to think how to use the details he had been recording inside the images in another scenario. He decided to make Qalandia 2047 as a model using the photographic images from the camp. By inserting the âreal imagesâ into the model, Hourani created a representation of a world within a world.
Susan Stewart notes in On Longing how in the tableau âwe see the essential theatricality of all min- iatures; the miniature becomes a stage on which we project, by means of association or intertextuality, a deliberately framed series of actionsâ ( Stewart 1993: 54 ). Qalandia demonstrates Stewartâs observation: That the world of things can open itself to re veal a secret life; this is the daydream of the microscope: the daydream of life inside life, of significance multiplied infinitely within significance. The state of arrested life we see in the tableau [...] always bears the hesitation of a begin- ning. ( Stewart 1993: 54 )
In Houraniâs models, the viewer walks pass the checkpoint and the wall, listening to the sound inside the houses with the antennas on the top, peering into the three colourful future gardens â Fish Garden â Stone Garden â Flower Garden. The city is built from people and real-life situations. The decision about what and when to include a particular feature is care- fully considered. âThe mirror came after there was a wall to hang it on [...]. The gardens came after there was no space to build gardens in the refuge camps. The antennas are how they received informationâ ( Hourani 2009 ). Hourani incorporated more and more details to be sure that the audience could âfeelâ the camp and understand his message to think about the future of this place. It cultivates our empathy and according to the philosopher Robert Vischer, it is through empathy that we have the ability to âthinkâ oneself into the ob- ject: When I observe a stationary object, I can without
difficulty place myself within its inner structure, at its centre of gravity I can think my way into it, mediate its size with my own, stretch and expand, bend and confine myself to it. ( Vischer 1983 / 1994: 89-123 )
Houraniâs city resonates with the âenigmatic situationsâ the architect Stephen Parcell attributes to the diorama. In its metaphoric architecture, Parcell says: We may imagine our own immersion in these situations: different vital states ( coma, paralysis, ec- stasy, death ), different social situations ( imprisonment, quarantine, stardom, freedom ), different atmospheric conditions ( liquid, gas, intense cold, vacuum ), and different temporal conditions ( slow motion, ancestry, deja vu ). ( Parcell 1996: 198 )
In Qalandia, the lights and sounds give a sense of duration and time passing. Unlike other architectural representations which are designed for visual con- sumption and are inanimate and devoid of haptic expe- riences, Hourani provides us with the sensual evidence of presence. We study his models closely, exploring with our eyes but also through our ears; seeking out aural and visual details. Ralph Rugoff writes in Homeopathic Strategies how: tiny artworks force us to draw closer and this forward movement parallels a mental process;
the more closely we examine minute details, the less we notice the gulf in size that separates us. The act of paying attention is in itself a kind of magnifying glass [...] this charges our experience of the object, imbuing it with an almost hallucinatory acuity. ( Rugoff 1997: 14 )
Event filled works like Qalandia reveal so much more than location. They have a spatio-temporal con- sciousness lacking in more supposedly âsophisticatedâ maps. But as Paul Carter argues if such mappings ex- ist at all in mainstream consciousness it is âas aes- thetic toys, art objects, the mythic residue of collective dreamsâ ( Carter 2009: 17 ). The toy model with its as- sociations of craft, nostalgia, and infantile desires of control is commonly perceived as an enclosed world set apart from the ârealâ â a diminutive elsewhere. Stew- art, however, gives us a more generous interpretation of the toyâs purpose and meaning. She describes how the toy is âa device for fantasy, a point of beginning for narrative. To toy with something is to manipulate it, to try it out within sets of contextsâ. By her definition, Ho- uraniâs toy world is âa miniaturised real world in which the relationship between materiality and meaning are testedâ ( Stewart 1993: 58 ).
Wafa Hourani employs the strategies of humour that the philosopher Simon Critchley recommends in dealing with âtragic fateâ. According to Critchley, âIn the absence of Aristotelian happiness, in a world where happiness has been reduced to the maximum satis- faction of transient inclinations, it is in practices like humour that we find an experience of non-delusory, non-desultory and non-heroic sublimationâ ( Critchley 2007: 82 ). Through the use of humour Houraniâs models perform an important and powerful critical function. They charm and amuse us with their joyous and exotic depictions of life elsewhere but we go away disturbed by the presence of the âotherâ and the realisation that there is this place somewhere.
These models are not the sophisticated uninhabited architectural presentations used to promote a devel- operâs or a politicianâs utopian visions that are more frequently dystopian in their omissions. In contrast, Qalandia is a shambolic construct full of colour and presence. As the writer J. B. Jackson noted in The Ne- cessity of Ruins: This is how we should think of land- scapes: not merely how they look, how they conform to an aesthetic ideal, but how they satisfy elementary needs: the need for sharing some of those sensory ex- periences in a familiar place: popular songs, popular dishes, a special kind of weather supposedly found no- where else, a special kind of sport or game, played only here in this spot. These things remind us that we be- long â or used to belong â to a specific place: a country, a town, a neighbourhood. [...] above all a landscape should contain the kind of spatial organization which fosters such experiences and relationships; spaces for coming together, to celebrate, spaces for solitude, spaces that never change and are always as memory depicted them. ( Jackson 1980: 16 )
J. B. Jackson was drawing on his experiences in combat intelligence during World War II, and was spe- cifically referring to the military landscape which he felt could provide an example for post-war planning. For Jackson âthe military landscape revealed two as- pects of humanity: Those urgent, unremitting efforts to establish communications, the trailing wires and signs and symbols and coloured lights, foreshadowed our present groping for new kinds of communityâ( Jackson 1980: 17 ). But he went on to warn that the other aspect
â the desire for territory and power would continue to âmutilateâ the environment. Writing twenty years later, the cultural geographer, Denis Cosgrove, found that the modern landscape has already adopted the âspatial divisions, uniform vision and exclusionary practicesâ of the military landscape ( Cosgrove 2000: 262 ). The threat
of terrorism and global warfare has extended the com- bat zone; the garden itself has become strategic as the war of terror is fought in homes and backyards of the enemy. As the human geographer and social scientist, Nigel Thrift observes âThe image of the complete battle separate from the civilian life around it, is antiquated, unreal [...] elsewheres increasingly do not existâ ( Thrift 2007: 263 ).
When the military project their desire onto a landscape they introduce violent transformations, changing citizenship into estrangement. The architect and philosopher, RubiĂł Ignasi SolĂ -Morales has argued that through the violence of war, the urban landscape becomes a terrain vague and âthe strange, the inde- scribable, and the uninhabitable are brought to the surfaceâ ( SolĂ -Morales 1995: 123 ). Qalandia âattempts to name what cannot be classifiedâ. As Paul Carter has argued, names like this both âmark a presence and its absence, they both order the chaos and admit itâ. For Carter, such names should be understood as âcom- pressed poemsâ or âcompacted mythsâ ( Carter 2009: 25 ). Carl Schmitt wrote in The Nomos of the Earth ( 1953 ) that âWho dictates the law of the land, gets to name the landâ ( Mendieta 2004: 9 ). According to the sociologist Mitch- ell Dean, Schmitt usage of the word nomos means more than its usual translation as traditional or customary law. The action and process of nomos is given by the Greek verb nemein meaning to take, to allot and to assign, which in turn is the root of the German words, nehmen and Name. Schmitt himself uses the term Landnahme meaning âland-takingâ or âland-appropri- ationâ to capture this primary sense of the term. For Schmitt, Nomos is a âfence-wordâ: it creates territory, defines locality, marks places, separates backyards and defines households. ( Dean 2006: 4 )
Dean points out that from Schmittâs perspective, when political thought âbecomes âa-topicalâ, that is,as something whose ideal lies nowhere, or, even more strongly, which is driven by a Utopia, a ânotplaceâ, the abstract universal individual is not simply a deterrito- rialized individual but a disoriented oneâ ( Dean 2006: 7 ). It is our position as outsiders excluded from the systems of power and activity that SolĂ -Morales claims
âconstitutes both a physical expression of our fear and insecurity and our expectation of the other, the alter- native, the utopian, the futureâ ( SolĂ -Morales 1995: 121 ).
The cultural geographer Kevin Robins observes in Into the Image âThe utopian destination is imagined in terms of a place that is beyond disappointment and disillusion, and the utopian desire is to be in unity, at one, with such an environment.â
But he goes on to ask; âWhat is this desire that constantly seeks the âotherâ of any place ( and which cannot be satisfied by any real place )?â Is it the desire for transcendence â to create an ideal new order or a flight from reality? ( Robins 1996: 16 ) Robins suggests that it is the latter. For him it is an inability âto come to terms with the condition of situated and placed exis- tence: an unwillingness to confront and deal with diffi- culty and disappointment, a reluctance to acknowledge and accept the limits and constraints of real situationsâ ( Robins 1996: 16 ). The utopian model can encourage this dislocated view. The detached spectator is situated at a distance and as Smith points out in his discussion of spatial displacement this âOlympian position rewards its spectator with the pleasures of detachment and the personal inconsequence of all that they surveyâ ( Smith 1993: 79 ). This is not, however, Houraniâs position. By positioning his models at a height that does not privi- lege the overview, he allows the spectator to become engaged with the spaces at eye level. Coming âface-to faceâ with the occupants of these houses, the viewer experiences moments of recognition and identification. This is the view hidden from the military observers
who rely on the ability to survey the terrain from a
high vantage point. Their ( mis ) understanding of the âground truthâ 1 is based on âtopographical command and controlâ methods which require an elevated posi-
tion ( Weizman 2006: 166 ). The cultural theorists, Ryan Bishop and John
Phillips in The Slow and the Blind tell us that in its ear- liest manifestation, the skopos ( from the ancient Greek target ) was one who watches out for and is the guard- ian for the community, a kind of epi-scopus or overseer [...] later the word skopos became associated with the military and referred to a spy or scout who seeks out and marks the target [...] an intelligence gatherer and surveyor of the battlefield. Bishop and Phillips con- clude that âIn these senses, then, the scopic can both mark and target, as well as merge into the episcopal functions of governance and an overseeing of the na- tion and its interestsâ ( Bishop / Philips 2010: 21 ). Houra- ni has taken on the role of the skopos as epi-scopus and through his narrative constructions is challenging the militaristic initiatives that attempt to bring about erasure. He is demonstrating through the model the scopic conditions of surveillance and resistance.
Hourani has set no time limit on development of his projects. In theory, Qalandia could be endlessly modified. Although he refers to photographs and his direct experience of the locations represented, the mimetic relationship between the model and its refer- ents is selective. The challenge for Hourani is to create a fictional world which can persuade the viewer of its validity as a location. At the same time, his projects resist the norms of cartographic representation what Massey calls âthe claims to singularity, stability and closureâ ( Massey 2005: 109 ). They are ongoing stories. It is through metaphorical and mythological specula- tions that these models make visible the ârealâ. In Carl Schmittâs âpolitical mythology of world order,â it is the poetic, mythic and symbolic elements â as opposed to more rationalized forms of discourse â which help make the world thinkable, map-able, and thus form conditions of certain forms of âglobalâ political action ( Dean 2006: 1 ).
The architect and author, Eyal Weizman observed in Temporary Facts, Flexible Lines how during the war of 1948 the land registry maps of the West Bank were used to plan attacks against the Palestinian villages
âthey were initially conceived to serve, and helped the process that erased them from the ground only a few years after they were first recorded on paperâ ( Weizman 2006: 161 ). Paul Carter calls this annihilation of space, a âspatial sleight of handâ a âgeographical conjuring trickâ, which âerases from collective memory [...] every trace of elsewhere in either time or spaceâ ( Carter 2009: 17 ). These are the gaps in representation â the erasures, the blind spots on the maps that Hourani addresses in his work. He constructs a strategic and scenographic response to the militaristic occupation and determina- tion of space by re-imagining the territory. Through his actions â acted out in the staged space, they engage in what Leach describes as the âtransitory and fluid dis- course of territorialisationâ ( Leach 2006: 181 ). Qalandia is an imaginative demonstration of the âpolitics of de- sireâ and the possibilities of place making. Houraniâs models project into the future and address what might be. They are discursive and speculative representations of elsewheres that are no longer nowhere.
1 Ground truth is defined as the actual or âtrueâ battlefield situation. It serves as the basis of comparison for what the subject perceives the situation to be. âToward a Methodology for Evaluat- ing the Impact of Situation Awareness on Unit Effectiveness of Dismounted Infantrymenâ, C. Blackwell and E.S. Red- den, U.S. Army Research Laboratory, Ft. Benning, GA, 2000
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