Artists unite!

Israeli, Palestinian, Iraqi, Turkish, and Iranian artists search for balance between East, West, culture and self-identity in Forbidden Junctions.

artists unite (photo credit: Courtesy)
artists unite
(photo credit: Courtesy)
'All of the artists that participate in the exhibition are coming from communities that are in a way a border between East and West. The exhibition gives you a variety of points of view from different countries in the Middle East," says Dor Guez, the exhibit's curator. The contemporary art exhibit, Forbidden Junctions, which features photography and video installations, opens at the Israeli Center for Digital Arts this Saturday. In "A Brief Time in Iraq" Reem Da'as, a Palestinian artist from east Jerusalem, displays a scanned photo album, taken by her brother and his friend. Back in July 2003, the duo drove from east Jerusalem to Iraq as tourists. The photos they shot depict the ruins of Baghdad and Saddam Hussein's palaces following the invasion of that country. Da'as picks out three photos as particularly powerful: the one of her brother's friend next to a decapitated statue of Hussein, another showing the word peace, spray-painted in English, Hebrew and Arabic, and the third, a portrait of Hussein with bullet holes through it. Joseph Dadoune is the creator of the sound work entitled "Universes" in which he utilizes Mediterranean music - sometimes even on vinyl - stretching the sounds to create something slower and deeper. "If you come to the exhibition and experience my work, you'll feel that it's very hypnotic and metaphysical," he says. A young Dadoune arrived in Israel with his mother, an Algerian exile who lived in France, and says that he still struggles with his Jewish and Arab mixed heritage. In reference to musical classification, Dadoune takes issue with certain labels, and finds the terms "oriental" and "mizrahi" offensive. The latter, he states, exemplifies previous Israeli tendencies to exclude elements of Arabic in an attempt to westernize Hebrew. "Five to seven years ago, Israel didn't play oriental Jewish music on the radio," Dadoune says, adding that this situation is now better. Iraqi artist Wafaa Bilal presents "The Ashes Series," featuring photographs and miniature models that portray the ruins of Baghdad. "From far away, I watch Iraq being slowly destroyed. I have always longed to return there, but since I can't, this is a way to meditate on the situation and find peace by rebuilding these destroyed places," Bilal says. "Since these images are physically reconstructed, they lack the human aura. So, I literally used human ashes in the work, a symbolic gesture of human loss," says Bilal. The exact quantity of human remains used is 21 grams, which, he says, is symbolic of the human spirit. It is his hope, he explains, that "these places can exist as a universal reference, not just to Iraq, which has unfortunately been linked to destruction. Although the destruction wasn't perpetuated by the people of Iraq, it was imposed on them," Bilal says. "This work reflects the hope of so many Iraqis to rebuild their own country and stay away from violence. Some of the places I am rebuilding are associated with actual places where I have lost family members. War never leaves moments of serenity after the dust settles. It only leaves remnants and the dismantling of the very spirit of the human being," he says. But Bilal does not want to be stamped just as an artist from Iraq. "I want to address the conflict within and hope it transcends borders." That conflict, he says, is not confined to one physical space. The collaborative effort of these artists toward fomenting this dynamic group exhibition in Israel was surprising but since it is a reality, "I just hope we broaden the audience's ideas of other cultures," says Guez. Forbidden Junctions opens on Saturday, opens on Saturday Feb. 14 at 8 p.m. through May 2 at the Israeli Center for Digital Art (16 Yirmiyahu St., Holon; (03) 556-8792; Admission is free.