Samira Badran, Have a Pleasant Stay!, 2009, Installation, commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation. Courtesy artist.

Musallam_1.JPG

Mohammad Musallam, Cultural Siege, HD image, courtesy artist.

Batniji_1.jpg

Taysir Batniji, still from Transit, 2004, HD video, courtesy artist.

AlHawajri_1.jpg

Mohammed Al Hawajri, M43, 2009, 44 watercolor drawings on paper, courtesy Mark Hachem Gallery.
Friday, July 4, 2014

How Green Was My Valley?

Mary Evangelista on the Palestinian Art Scene

Mary Evangelista is the Director of ArtPalestine International, a New York–based cultural organization that facilitates artistic exchanges between Palestine and the US. Evangelista recently curated the exhibition How Green Was My Valley at Whitebox in New York, introducing a new generation of Palestinian artists to the city. Previous exhibitions include The Thousand and One Nights at Postmasters Gallery – an exhibition of contemporary artists from Palestine curated by Evangelista and Michael Connor, editor / curator of Rhizome.

How Green Was My Valley featured works critical of the occupation, as well as those imaging new beginnings. Works such as Samira Badran’s viscerally charged but cold-as-steel-installation, Have a Pleasant Stay! - modeled on a security checkpoint in Kalandia, Jerusalem - or Taysir Batniji'sTransit, a series of slides taken in border passages between Egypt and Gaza - demonstrate the hard edge of bureaucracy and militarily enforced boundaries. But throughout the exhibition there is also a sense of improvisation, emerging networks and the persistence of community, despite the matrix of the world's most technological police state.

Underscoring the severity of the situation in Gaza, and the challenges facingPalestinian artists, one of the artists featured in the show, Mohammed Musallam, was unable to to attend the opening due to the closure of the Egyptian border, due to the siege on Gaza . “Rafah check point,” Musallam says, “which is the only entry point to Egypt and to the world for us, only opens for two days a month and a very limited number of Palestinians are allowed to leave Gaza.” Musallam did later make it to New York to see the exhibition, and a function was organised to greet him, but his return home is also uncertain. “I am flying back to Cairo tonight and I really do not know when I will be back in Gaza, as the border is still closed. Most probably I’ll be detained at Cairo Airport until the border is open and then will be deported to Gaza. It sounds crazy to have to struggle to get out and in to Gaza, but this is the hard reality of our life in Gaza”.

 

White Fungus editor Ron Hanson caught up with Mary Evangelista recently and asked her a few questions.

Ron Hanson: You set up Art Palestine in 2005 to increase visibility of Palestinian artists in the US, but your involvement with this art stretches back further than that. Can you tell me how you first became involved in Palestinian art.

Mary Evangelista: I first became involved with art in Israel when sent there by my publisher boss, Milton Esterow, Artnews.  (1985) I had just recently completed a huge New York city-wide exhibition of contemporary Israeli art to coincide with the Metropolitan Museum’s display of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Twenty seven New York galleries participated. I begged a $250,000 barter from Lufthansa Airlines—they were in the process of opening up their route between Frankfurt and Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv and were happy to use my exhibition— Artisrael-- to promote this new route.

After completing two contemporary Israeli exhibitions in NYC, I was sent back again by ARTnews to check on what effects the Intifada was having, or had, on the art world. I traveled with my son, Cotton Coulson, a photographer with National Geographic.  We were shocked and disheartened to see the way the Israelis were treating Palestinians —most noticeably at “checkpoints” and inside the Palestinian refugee camps we visited outside Jerusalem and in Ramallah.

My involvement progressed. I wanted very much to tell my New York friends that conditions in Israel were not being accurately reported in our media. I believed that Palestinian artists could tell that story and I curated a number of exhibitions of their art work. Raising funds, finding concerned venues, bringing the art and artists over has been my mission. I believe that gradually, we are being heard. 

 

RH: The extreme nature of the political situation in Palestine strongly emphasizes many of the themes that artists are dealing with all over the world in regards to cultural identity under the conditions of globalization. For How Green Was My Valley, you've brought together a number of Palestinian artists to explore these ideas. But, of course, these artists are located all over the world in the diaspora, with some still located locally. How strong is the connection between these artists given the geographical distance that separates many of them?

ME: Palestinian artists maintain very strong connections! Palestinian artists ‘return’ to Ramallah, Hebron, Jerusalem, and Gaza as often as they can; keep in touch with each other via the internet and Facebook - seem to know what kind of art each one is producing, pay attention to each other's work, bump into each other at gallery openings, keep watch through websites, and seem very well connected.

 

RH: What is the situation like on the ground for the artists who reside in Palestine? What kind of infrastructure do these artists have available to them?
  
ME: Art has been promoted in Palestine for the past 20 years, in part because almost nothing else can receive support, in part because artists are able to link the occupation with imaginative or other possibilities. There have been a small number of art academies in occupied Palestine. Since the Oslo accords EU countries have supported art education and development, all the artists know each other and their work, and artists who have succeeded in leaving Palestine, residing in Europe or the United States, return on a regular basis. The art scene has expanded throughout, with the first biennial international exhibit in November 2012, Qalandiya International. Qalandiya is the name of the most notorious refugee camp just outside Jerusalem and Ramallah.
  

RH: The issue of the occupation and Palestinian statehood is extremely heated in the US where the media coverage appears much more tightly controlled. I've met Americans who have quite progressive views on a number of issues, but support Israel in lockstep on this particular issue. What kind of responses have you gotten in the US to this exhibition and others you have produced?
  
ME: There is no question that in the United States as a whole, the AIPAC lobby controls most of the public image of Israel and Palestine. This made getting support for the exhibition very difficult. At the same time, there have been shifts in the uncritical support of US Jews, especially in New York. The opening of the show was a blockbuster, far exceeding anything we imagined.

Monday, December 26, 2016
Scenes from the personal history of improviser, composer and deep listener Pauline Oliveros
Thursday, October 20, 2016
A conversation with Mattin and Miguel Prado
Thursday, September 29, 2016
#KariAltmann #flexia #extinction
Saturday, September 17, 2016
Interview
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
By Nick Yeck-Stauffer
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
By Kyra Kordoski
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
An Interview with Usama Hameed Alshaibi بحثا عن مدينة غير مرئية: مقابلة مع أسامة حميد الشيبي
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
June 18 at The Wall
Thursday, May 28, 2015
By Yan Jun
Thursday, April 23, 2015
Some questions for Israel Martinez
Friday, March 13, 2015
An Interview with Clair Fontaine
Monday, February 9, 2015
A Report by Ian-John Hutchinson
Monday, December 15, 2014
JC Gonzo talks to Mang Mang
Sunday, November 30, 2014
A report from Beijing
Thursday, November 6, 2014
Jacki Leota – librettist/ curator/ writer/ educator
Friday, October 17, 2014
A Dispatch from Morocco
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Treasure Hill Artist Village|Huashan Grand Green|Taipei Artist Village
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Interview with Robbie Martin
Sunday, September 7, 2014
“technology creates systems for more effective production and art dismantles those systems to inspire affective thought” - Dena Beard
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
A solo exhibition by Chiu Lin-yao
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
The Empire Strikes Back
Friday, July 11, 2014
A Quick Word with Wu Darkuen
Sunday, June 22, 2014
Shanghai's Underground Noise Scene comes to Taipei
Thursday, April 10, 2014
White Fungus in new big book on magazines released by Sendpoint
Monday, January 27, 2014
New edition of White Fungus now on sale at do your read me?!
Saturday, January 25, 2014
Schizophrenia Taiwan 2.0/Opening/The Hyper Transmission version 1 sound performance by Fujui Wang
Thursday, September 26, 2013
The new issue of White Fungus is now at the Library Project in Dublin!
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Peter McLeavey's hand-drawn ad for White Fungus Issue 10 features in the new biography by Jill Trevelyan.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Hsia Yü 夏宇 will be giving a poetry reading at Depopulate 03 on Friday.
Friday, January 10, 2014
White Fungus will be part of the exhibition "Photobook Malmo" at Galleri Vasli Souza which opens this Friday!!
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
White Fungus has produced a new publication for the exhibition "No One River Flows" at Kuandu Museum in Taipei.