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Dead Lands, “Karkaot Mawat”
For Curating Now
Dead Lands, “Karkaot Mawat”
A proposal by Rotem Rozental
This project emerged from a prolonged scholarly and curatorial engagement with identity conflicts in the Middle East and their manifestation in contemporary work. The exhibition and its public programming strive to open this conversation to an international audience, and suggest a category through which to view creative production that uncovers identity shaped through land, both concrete and imagined.
Dead Lands suggests a view of the land as a point of reference, a beginning or an end. The participating artists use institutional systems such as archives, communal rituals and national visual rhetoric, to undermine and subvert the narratives and histories they preserve and distribute. These artists negotiate their identity in persistent struggle with the land that seeks to define, celebrate, marginalize or exclude it.
The origin point of this category is marked in 1858 Ottoman Palestine. The Ottoman regime allowed locals to cultivate abandoned lands classified as Mawat, meaning, in a state of death. The territorial compromise was cancelled under British rule. During the 1948 war, Jordan occupied Judea and Samaria, regulating those lands under Jordanian statute. After the Six Days War (1967), Israel decreed the area as military territory.
Raanan Alexandrowicz’s 2011 documentary The Law in These Parts reveals another turn. Tracing the legal base of Israel’s military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, the film outlines the juridical approval of capture of Palestinian territories. By invoking Ottoman law, lands that were not farmed over three years were deemed Mawat, therefore available for confiscating.
The exhibition then moves beyond Israel’s conflicted, seen and unseen borders, to engage with international practice. Much like their works, the artists are in a constant state of migration: between places of residence, local and global production and pre-determined subject positions.
Participating Artists (in alphabetical order): Michal BarOr (Tel Aviv), Aissa Deebi (NYC), Assaf Evron (Chicago), Josh Franco (Texas/NY), Dor Guez (Tel Aviv), Gaston Zvi Ickowicz (Tel Aviv), Yaron Lapid (London), Metehan Ozcan (Istanbul), Joanna Piotrowska (Poland/London), Alona Rodeh (Berlin).
1. Assaf Evron, from the series Untitled (Series R), 2010, archival inkjet print, 70 x 70 cm.
2. Dor Guez, Samira in her wedding gown, the first Christian wedding in Lod, after 1948. From the series Scanograms #1, 2010, manipulated readymade, archival inkjet print, 23½ x 29½ inches.
3. Josh T. Franco, In Tllilli, In Tapalli: Three Tejanos in Red and Black. Installation View. Height specific plywood mounts (6’, 4’10’’, 5’7’’). Beeswax coated glyphs, dimensions varying between 1"x1” to 4"x4”. Storytelling table: small table and a 8.5” x 11” lightbox.
4. Metehan Ozcan, from the series Made in Contact, Open Archive, 2014. Found photographs, postcards, posted online.
5. Michal BarOr, The Map, 60 x 100 cm, archival inkjet print on rice paper, 2013.
6. Yaron Lapid, from the series Partial Moments, digitally manipulated found photographs, varying dimensions.
About the Curator
Rotem Rozental is a photo-historian, writer, and curator. Currently she is Chief Curator at American Jewish University in Los Angeles, CA. As a Doctorate Candidate in the Art History Department of Binghamton University, her dissertation project investigates the intersections of the nation-state, civic engagement, photography and archival practices, as these have unfolded in the conflicted history of the Middle East. In recent years, she served as the Online Editorial Director of The Shpilman Institute for Photography and the Jerusalem Season of Culture. Her writings and scholarly texts appeared in magazines, journals, and publications such as Artforum.com, Philosophy of Photography, and Uncertain States. Her curatorial projects include We – Festi-Conference for Creative Collectives (2012-2013, Jerusalem), Three Cities Against the Wall (New York, Ramallah and Tel Aviv, 2005), and the collaborative archival project Outlet: The Archive of the Israeli Trade Center. Her exhibition Dead Lands: Karkaot Mawat won the NurtureArt Curatorial Call and was on view in April 2016. In the past decade, Rotem has been working in Israel and the US as a consultant, editor, writer and organizer for international institutions and publications, as well as cultural non-profits and organizations.