Moments of Possibilities: Air, Land and Sea
In 2016, London joined people across the globe in Jerusalem, Haifa, Bethlehem, Gaza, Ramallah, Beirut, and Amman to inaugurate a unique event series called Qalandiya International (QI), in which 100 international artists, architects, filmmakers and spatial designers will simultaneously and collaboratively explore the subject of refugees and the sea.
Qalandiya International is a collaborative event that promotes contemporary art and design in Palestinians cities and villages. This year is the first time that the event has expanded onto the global stage under the theme of This Sea is Mine. While crossing borders, participants will contemplate the prospect of return and refuge beyond Palestine to include those who are displaced in and around the Mediterranean Sea. The sea will thus be a medium to navigate through. It represents a layer that can possibly bring to the surface the absent narratives of the contemporary Palestinian diaspora.
The London event was hosted by three central London locations, namely the University of Westminster, P21 Gallery and The Mosaic Rooms. Using the ideas of ‘Air, Land and Sea’ as spaces of possibilities, over 25 contributors will defy the fragmented landscape to offer a new imaginative geography that can stitch and unite diasporic communities – both virtually and physically. ‘Air, Land and Sea’ suggests a world where the invisible can be rendered again as visible, and where the subject of return is achievable.
With land distribution and urban morphology in Palestine now being pushed to their extremes through the inclusion of certain communities, and the exclusion of others, the aim of this London event is to explore alternative means of re-reading ‘Air’, ‘Land’ and ‘Sea’ within the region by stripping away the dominating power of lines on the ground.
Stemming from the need for an alternative discourse that can heal and nourish real physical space as well as the space of imagination, it will look at ‘Air, Land and Sea’ in the hope of redefining a new geography beyond the currently enforced borders. Through acts such as ‘cutting’ and ‘breathing’, the event will include works that demonstrate the possibilities of reconstructing and stitching together fragmented spaces and Palestinian diasporic communities.
‘Air, Land and Sea’ will be the medium where boundaries are blurred and surfaces are merged. It aims to engage with nature and allow the cultural landscape to heal itself again in a constant process of wrapping and stitching together.
The London event will hence consist of exhibitions, digital fabrications, talks and films screenings as mediums to explore everyday lives and new kinds of space in Palestine, the Mediterranean Sea, and beyond, both virtually and physically.
‘Air, Land and Sea’ suggests a world where the invisible can be rendered again as visible, and where the subject of return is achievable. In this sense, the program will question the idea of ‘moments of home’, located on the thresholds of waiting, whether for those who were displaced once or else are in a condition of constant displacement.
Shahmeer Khan and Adhitya Pandu - in collaboration with PART
The Digital Floating Garden
This an interactive installation inspired by ordinary objects used by refugees to hold on to their right to the land and sea, preventing their stories from being lost by continuous' looting' of their history/memories. It suggests a subversive medium to narrate and preserve, on the contemporary obsession with digital media today, whereby the number of text messages received and sent daily exceeds the population of the world. The Digital Floating Garden utilises the 'digital cloud' as an additional means to reclaim the right of the land-sea and narrate the stories of the diaspora. The device is made of three individual pieces when put together they form the Whispering Device. While one piece contains a physical soil sample from the land, the second will contain hair and nail sample of individual citizens as DNA proof. The third piece contains the narrative in a digital format saved onto a USB device.
Reclaiming the Sea [Dance performance]
The areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea have been a place of complex systems of ideas, ancient cultures and religions. Today, these waters represent hope, exodus and a passage to the unexpected.The continuous interaction between sea and earth can lead to an aggressive dialogue and a constant act of claiming space from each other, resulting in the formation of uncertain and shifting boundaries.Not far from the current situation in Palestine, the unchoreographed movement of the sea is non-static and unpredictable and it can be interpreted as a change of equilibrium, an imbalance and in some cases a violent invasion. It is characterised by an improvisation and instability of an indefinite duration. Observing and representing the movement of the sea is part of the process of understanding it. The role of boundaries becomes vital during this journey. Where does the sea stop moving?
Lost Home in Area X
Area X is a new unconstrained municipality that lies in Kafr Aqab, a neighbourhood that sits within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, suspended between Ramallah and East Jerusalem. Within its boundaries lies an animated house that tackles the issues of the Israeli absentee law. Vulnerable to fall under full Israeli jurisdiction since the law has now been implemented, the theatrical approach of absence and presence within Area X marks an illusion to Israeli control by disrupting the system of the loss of identity and home. Following the introduction of this law in December 1995, the Interior Ministry of East Jerusalem have revoked the residency of Palestinians who moved outside the municipal boundary, dictating that a change in permanent address results in the loss of Jerusalem residential status. Constant military checks of homes take place, requiring Palestinians to prove that their 'centre of life' is in Jerusalem under the absentee law.
Speculative Void : The Spilled Void
The notion of void can be explored through a very vast spectrum.Void has always associated with emptiness, darkness, negative and missing elements.In another perspective.the emptiness of the void , is seen as a very powerful zone in manifest intimacy. As per discussed in the book, 'The Empty Space' by Peter Brook, where the emptiness of the void becomes where spaces can be created within spaces .The void is also perceived as a neutral zone. The No Man's Land in Cyprus, has created a third entity on the island , apart from the Northern Cyprus and Republic of Cyprus. Left-over, abandoned and contentious spaces inside of the city have their own complex nature . For example, the physical boundaries established by the UN ; the Buffer Zone , can be rendered as vague , because it spans beyond the physically of the concrete barrier. The process of the growth of cities evolves in relativity of time, when the division of the City happened across the middle of the city opens up new voids, over the span of 40 years.
Variation of C (2016)
A spoken-word performance produced for the Oalandiya International 2016, London, creating soundscape with layers of voices, reflecting, live-streaming images, to explore the biennale's theme, Moments for Possibilities: Air, Land and Sea, presented at the exhibition opening on 05 Oct 2016.
Fragments of Home: A Transient Home for the Modern Day Refugee
This project explores the notion of home/domesticity within the context of the Israeli occupation, focusing on modern-day displacement. In the Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard writes about the house constituting a body of images that give mankind proofs or illusions of stability. In Jerusalem, the notion of the home has been completely destabilised since the 1948 Nakba, when many homes were lost as Palestinians fled their houses in West Jerusalem and were not able to return. Over 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from what is now Israel, and following the 1967 conflicts another huge wave of the Palestinian population was displaced. Although history focuses on these two catastrophes, Israeli continues to use displacement and home destruction as a military mechanism. This project fixates around this threat to the Palestinians, developing a temporary sanctuary for the displaced. The new architectural typology inhabits the blurred borders of Qalandia refugee camp.
The Promise (2011; four-part Channel 4 series)
Just as 18-year-old Londoner Erin sets off to spend summer in Israel with her best friend, Eliza, she unearths an old diary belonging to her seriously ill grandfather, Len. Intrigued by the life of this man she barely knows, she takes the diary with her, and is stunned to learn of his part during the British Mandate period in the post-WWII British peace-keeping force in Palestine. As Len’s story comes to life from the pages of the diary, Erin discovers the disturbing truths about his time in Palestine and the atrocities he witnessed in the 1940s. Retracing Len’s steps in modern-day occupation, Erin sets out on a heart-breaking journey in an effort to fulfil a promise made by her grandfather over 60 years ago.
The Logic of the Birds
Procession is a sculpture that questions how we look at history through a filter of the present. A mix of archival and contemporary transparency images, many showing processions in Palestine from the early part of the 20th century, have been fitted to sections of used plastic drainage tubes retrieved from builders' rubble. These seemingly rudimentary binocular objects are situated on a lightbox table and when the spectator holds one of these viewing devices up to their eyes the two separated fragments, and sometimes eras, appear to merge into a single image.
The Logic of the Birds' was inspired by early-20th century photographs of an old Palestinian procession showing people moving freely across the land from Jerusalem to a shrine near Jericho. Wanting to work collaboratively to consider the use of open, public space, led me to devise this project as a public processional performance in the landscape. The title of the performance/film is from a 12th-century Sufi poem. Working with young actors from Ramallah, the performance/film was staged close to the Jordan Valley, on a major trajectory for bird migration as well as a route inscribed by journeys of pilgrimage, exile and return.
In Assemblage, archive footage from the British Mandate period in Palestine shows the raising of a British observation balloon, a metaphor conjuring up both release from the land and the mapping of it in the establishment of territory through the process of reconnaissance, or surveillance.
In Reel the disrupted residues of film have been selected – the lead-ins and endings of film with music composed by Johann Johannsson. The music brings to the images an intensity and spiritual dimension evoking the sensual and sublime.
White Oil is a single screen film that excavates a number of narratives around the 350+ quarries in the Occupied Palestinian Territories of the West Bank. The stone excavated has been termed the ‘white oil’ of Palestine, 65% of which is expropriated by Israel for the construction of Israel. Today almost every hillside is scarred by the brutal incision of the quarries.
Narrative of a Space
After 67 years of refuge, the other Palestinian space, the Palestinian refugee camp, as both space and people, represents a crucial element of analysis and investigation within the larger Palestinian narrative, especially that it constitutes an accumulation of years of continued oppression, destruction, and re‐construction. Yet, Palestinian camps have overwhelmingly been presented as either passive sites of international aid, or conflictual sites of Palestinian political scrutiny. This has led to continuous manipulation and misrepresentation of the Palestinian camp, and a stripping away of the fascinating narratives of resistance, resilience, struggles and adaptability that the refugees have built over decades of refuge. It is those intimate narratives, on intimate scales of the larger camp, which need to become visible. The work here unpacks these layers in the aim to develop a new kind and scale of dialogue.
Migration Cloud: Syrian (Refugee) Parliament
Inspired by the (un)told stories of the journeys of Syrian refugees, the work here with its series of illustrations seeks to project the voices of the Syrians and people who have a close connection with the country to share the stories they have. Syrians have many traditions, two of which are the traditions of storytelling and preserving. Storytelling is seen to be the most powerful means of communicating a message. The storyteller, or Hakawati, was traditionally a central figure in Syrian society. Throughout its 300-year existence, the Al Nofara café in Damascus’ stone-built Old City has always had a Hakawati who told stories in evening gatherings. The last remaining Hakawati of Damascus is a 65-year-old man and people are worried that the tradition of storytelling will die with him. This project therefore seeks to preserve the tradition of storytelling that so many Syrians hold dear to them.
#Gazagram: Redevelopment & Innovation in the finite city
To allow reconstruction within Gaza, in 2014 the UN agreed the temporary Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) with the Israeli and Palestinian governments. The system brought in aggregate, cement and steel-bars (known as ‘ABC’ materials); many other materials such as steel beams are classed as ‘dual use’ materials and are hence restricted by the Israelis. Gazagram is a fictional app that uses triggers within the new community centres to project augmented reality exhibitions. It takes inspiration from Gazans passion for smartphones, social media and the internet, which allow them to connect with and learn from a world they cannot physically access. Finite City offers community incubators to support residents who return to rebuild their homes by providing waste disposal, electricity and clean water. The project aims to invert pockets of urban destruction into moments of opportunity, thereby retrospectively inserting vital public space into an overcrowded, unplanned city whose citizens cannot leave.
The Seaports of Gaza
Two kilometres off Gaza’s coast a series of steel rebar monoliths teeter and sway above the Mediterranean Sea. These ad-hoc towers anchor a system of energy production, fishing and ‘land extension’ that serve the Gazan urban areas. The elements of the scheme are either compliant (visible) or subversive (submerged).
Compliant Functions: SEA LANTERNS | floating mobile satellites, drifting out to sea and withdrawing back depending on the location of Israeli Navy ships, expanding or shrinking the Gaza fishermen’s ‘safe zone’. VERTICAL FISHING VILLAGE | ramshackle fishing plateaus, preservation facilities and fishermen’s huts.
Subversive Functions: SILT COLLECTION NETS | beneath the mobile generators to subversively harvest the migrating silt carried on the northern current of the Mediterranean Sea. SILT REFINEMENT HUBS | will receive this gathered material and process it into a purified form ready to be dispensed. SOLAR SINTERS | will collect the purified sand to 3D-print solid forms.
The air and sea connect land anywhere in the world, but this doesn’t have a stronger significance to a country’s people than in Palestine. The restrictions placed on their land mean that any connection to the outside world is sacred. There is a blockade to air, land and sea surrounding their country - meaning that there is no way out unless travelling across highly monitored borders. ‘Take Off’ uses the airport of Gaza as its central focus. The airport was one of the only ways for those trapped to leave the strip, but it was destroyed three years after opening. It is always at the forefront of any negotiations between Gaza and Israel. My project takes the concept that an airport is outside of the country’s border, and governed by international law - once a traveller passes through the security check points, they have legally left the country. This concept creates a free space, a sanctuary outside the occupation within the territory of Palestine. While Palestinians wait for the airport to gain permission for take off, the people of Gaza can fly in wind tunnels, giving them the experience of flight - a feeling which would be desirable in any part of the world. The airport itself provides several other uses, such as: employment within production and fabrication of building materials and airplane repairs or recycling of old part, housing on the water which aims to tackle the housing crisis, water treatment facilities, trading markets for an increased economy and an opportunity to record and share stories with other Palestinian refugees across the world. Take Off aims to tackle not only the basic human rights problems facing Palestinians, but also to tackle the increasingly devastating mental affects of the blockades and war, by proving a mental sanctuary - a place of joy.