KUNSTFORUM International, (Ausstellungen, Bd. 145) Band 145, Mai - Juni 1999, Seite 402
"From/to", FAREED ARMALY, Witte de With, Rotterdam; 28.1.
A stone is the smallest visual - and graspable element of the soil; the building of a house begins with the foundation stone; with the tombstone a life ends; a stone might also be used in defense and turned into a missile. The stone as a metaphor is the starting point for Fareed Armaly in his exhibition on the history, life and identity of the Palestinians. A people who lives without their own territory in Diaspora and a state which ceased to exist in 1948.
The artist/curator Fareed Armaly, son of Lebanese-Palestinian parents, born in America, is well aquainted with this. Since years he researched topics of historically conditioned identity definition. In this case he also trails his own history. The hope of a home in a independent state as the result of the courageous fight of the Intifada - this is somehow how the meaning of the stone, as described above, might be projected on to the fate of the Palestinian people, which is shown here in many different facets.
Not only to show the fate of this torn apart people, who exist by going
from one camp to another, Armaly took the stone as the founding pattern
of his exhibition dramaturgy and architecture. The starting point was
the digitalization of the stone’s surface and to reflect these
structures on to the floor of the space, by that creating a web of paths
on which to walk on. From intersecting points on the floor the white
lines are drawn like rays out to the walls on which they are led as
earthcolored lines to the next floor, by that covering the whole spatial
body. According to the revolutionary interpretation of the 19. century
geographer Elisée Reclus, who interpreted in his researches “history
as space”, cartography is understood here as an always changing
matter. As if Reclus anticipated the digital age, the three-dimensional
data-web in the space leads the audience through it. One walks by the
empty columns and
The new media become therefore the more important. Their role to keep
up private as well as public communication and to help to define an
identity is crucial. The exhibition would be merely a model and would
not have a contemporary reference to the current situation if Armaly
would not have founded his project on media as a source of information
and communication. Through it the exhibition mirrors the actual situation.
Telephone, TV and
The offer of didactic instruction and entertaining material is impressive.
Naturally Armaly invited specialists to give each of the topics covered
a scientific foundation: historians, sociologists, anthropologists,
film and TV professionals grant the adequate use of each media and a
well founded presentation of its content. As a starting point the well
For the first time it is possible in the West to see the latest productions
of feature and documentary filmmakers, and what should be noted: female
filmmakers as well. In corporation with the Rotterdam Filmfestival a
complex program was shown. A part of the exhibition space is designed
as a cinema too. Apart from the Palestinian film the video is also important,
which convey to bridging an information gap of the historical development
Also the Institute for Modern Media at the University of Jerusalem is being introduced. It informs about the teaching and educational situation and presents productions on education, literature and social behavior. It was also planned that a Jordan woman organization from Amman would send in weekly accounts of five women living in a Jordan camp. This could not be accomplished because of the death of King Hussein. The audio installation with interviews from woman in refugee camps is far more than a replacement: the interviews are cut so the audience is able to picture the fate of these women, which mirrors rootlessness and being a refugee, by themselves.
The computer which is centered in the middle of the space underlines within the web and data-net the role of the electronic media which is gaining more importance as an information and corresponding media for the Palestinians. Here one may read on-line important essays, maps and documents, though not yet linked to the local Rotterdam-Net. To place the current web sites in the internet will be the next goal.
A surprising and unexpected view on the history and self-portrayal of the Palestinians is given through two picture archives, one in Jerusalem, the other in Beirut. Already in the very beginning of photography, in the mid 19. century, the new media reached Palestine. Impressive examples portray it mainly as a biblical country. This view is also reflected by the early postcards, which are exhibited as well. At the turn of the century a didactic postcard production was created, aimed especially at Western audiences: Natives were dressed in biblical costumes to mirror Palestine as the “Holy Land”. Even today the historising photography exists next to the contemporary.
As Armaly always tries design his projects location specific, the link in the exhibition to the country in the Middle East and the exhibition space is the section called “Neighborhood”. Here, through the Rotterdam industrialization history, it is shown, through the protagonist Salman, that the first Palestinian immigrants in the 60s, have by now become Dutch-Palestinians.
The actual quality of the exhibition is that all parts of the presentation
create interest and sympathy and that they function to inform as well
as to educate, without creating the feeling that hatred or provocation
is created. As always the information architect is able to give the
topic an artistic form, which includes every section. Armaly (41), who
lived in Vienna and