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Title: The Diagram - Fareed Armaly and Rashid Mashawari
Author: Isabelle Graw (Critic and Publisher of Texte Zur Kunste
Source: Frankfurter Rundschau vom 7.8.02
Frankfurter Rundschau, August 7, 2002
"The Diagramm - Fareed Armaly and Rashid Mashawari"
The documenta is a highly detailed image (Wimmelbild) -
we zoom in on single aspects. In the 10th sequence of our series it
is Isabella Graw's turn:
One of the outstanding achievements of documenta 11 is the approach
in regard of political competence of art - a political competence
which should not be confused with art, and which is arranged around
the conditions of art, not around those of politics. Although not
all works succeed in demonstrating their political pretense convincingly
also in terms of art. Nevertheless, due to the offensive political
self-conception of this documenta, it might be hard in the future
to fall back behind the current state of discussion.
One of the most convincing art-political Installations is the one
by Fareed Armaly in collaboration with Rashid Masharawi - the project
From/To, which in regard of its political explosiveness has been oddly
neglected in the public so far - even though the work is hard to overlook,
since it takes up almost half of the space of the Documentahalle.
In the Nineties Fareed Armaly belonged to the pioneers of an artistic
practice, which was commonly described by the term of identity politics.
This term referred to an art practice, which related to the artist’s
identity in regard of minority politics. Since then, these approaches
have been quite discredited - either because their understanding of
identity becomes too substantial, or because they do not transgress
the notion of identity, instead they become completely absorbed in
these notions. By employing a method which is associative as well
as situation-related, Armaly to begin with did not even come close
to these problems. To act and work in terms of identity politics meant
in Armaly¹s case, that a subjective exigency is declared a legitimate,
possible starting point for an artistic work - as seen in From/To,
an installation first on view at Witte de With in Rotterdam, understood
to be a "cartography of the contemporary topos: Palestine”.
At the same time, he emphasizes his own perspective: as a son of Palestinian
and Lebanese emigrees in the USA:
In which way is it possible to transport a disputed subject such as
the Middle East Conflict contested borders, occupied territories,
refugee camps – into a work of art? By way of an abstract as
well as cooperative artistic method. From/To is a spatialization of
a geopolitical situation, by using an external factor:
a digitized stone. This stone represents artistic choice as well as
it is charged art historically (earth art) and politically. Such stones
block the roads at Israeli checkpoints, thus they are symbols of the
politics of occupation. By transposing the digitized structure of
the stone to a map and to border lines a system evolved, which becomes
a pattern of white lines on the installation floor. These paths which
one follows thus are as hypothetical as they are real. On the grey
painted walls of these spatialised narrative maps are on display,
which recount the history of these disputed borders. A film by Ramallah
based filmmaker Rashid Masharawi is projected as well: it shows the
traffic jams, the endless waiting at a checkpoint, where time seems
to stand still and nothings moves any longer. As it is always with
Armaly, the accompanying texts are brief and poignantly written, which
distinguishes them from all forms of rampant info-aesthetics.
When visiting the installation the first time I became witness to
outraged reactions, that this would be pro-palestinian propaganda.
Although it is true there is no mention of Palestinian suicide bombers,
this installation has nothing to do with any form of propaganda, already
due to its conceptual aesthetics, and the soberness of the texts.
In one of the rooms which shows films by Masharawi and a film program,
the position of the speakers is clearly recognizable. It is evident
that the goal of the work is to show a Palestinian perspective in
all its multilayeredness. And at least as important is the artistic
vocabulary, the specific form of spatial design. It is precisely this
which constitutes one of the merits of this work: that it is based
on a unique formal language as well as it mediates a political problem
in an outstanding artistic way.
Isabelle Graw is a critic and publisher of Texte Zur Kunste
and teaches art theory at Städelschule Frankfurt am Main/Germany.