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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 the Chief Curator of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, CA. In this capacity, she serves as the Assistant Dean of the Whizin Center and the Director of the Institute for Jewish Creativity (IJC). Rotem is a photo-historian, writer, and curator. Traversing the domains of technology, media and art, Rotem has been working as a consultant, editor, writer, educator and organizer for international publications, cultural non-profits and organizations, among them Dia:Beacon, The Liverpool Biennial, The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, and the Jerusalem Season of Culture. Her scholarly and curatorial projects were also supported by Artis, Independent Curators International, NurtureArt and the Center for Jewish History (NYC). Most recently, she curated the dual exhibition Launch Sites L.A., which expands unto two sites in Los Angeles, several countries and a number of potential universes. Rotem’s writings and academic essays appeared in magazines, journals, and publications such as Photographies, Philosophy of Photography, Artforum.com, Tablet.com, and Uncertain States. Rotem is currently pursuing her Dissertation project, in which she explores the intersections of Zionist photographic archives, the image of the body and the writing of a national territory under the guidance of Prof. John Tagg (Binghamton University, NY).