Art That Reaches Beyond Palestine

Friday, July 25, 2014

For his project "Live and Work in Palestine," Khaled Jarrar designed a seemingly official Palestinian passport stamp.

In a dark room inside the Whitebox Art Center, a non-profit galley in the Lower East Side, hundreds of names are projected on a wall and are read by a computer-generated voice. They are the Palestinians who have been killed in the current conflict between Israel and Gaza.

The piece is an artwork created by Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar. He made headlines internationally last week when Israeli authorities refused to let him travel to New York for the opening of a show at the New Museum, where he has another piece: a 70-minute-long film called Infiltrators that is part of the Arab-world survey “Here and Elsewhere.”

Names of the Palestinian victims killed in the current conflict in Gaza, part of a video piece by Khaled Jarrar  

Jarrar is 38 years old and he lives in Ramallah, in the West Bank. He was a soldier in the Palestinian Presidential Guard while studying interior design at the Palestinian Polytechnic University. As an artist, he works mostly with video and photography. His pieces document life in the Palestinian territories, tackling issues about identity, restriction, and the recognition of the state of Palestine. For his project Live and Work in Palestine, for example, he designed a seemingly official Palestinian passport stamp.

Art critic Deborah Solomon thinks Jarrar’s work raises the question of what the role of art should be in addressing a complex political situation. Jarrar's work, she thinks, is effective. “He has such a light, humorous touch, I think he wins everybody over,” she said.

Solomon interviewed Jarrar and when she told him she was Jewish, he replied: “You know what? I feel Jewish more than you.” When Solomon asked why, he said, “Because I don’t believe so much in religion. I don’t care if I am Jewish, or I am Muslim, or I am Christian, I like to be all of it. I like, if I can, combine all of it together.”

Solomon said Jarrar wants to rise above national boundaries, and make art that speaks to everyone. “He wants to let us know he is not hateful, he is not shrill, he is not didactic, he is not a terrorist. He is a man trying to capture the reality of his life on the West Bank.”

What is your take on his work, and on the role of art in this conflict? Join the conversation.

Still from a video by Khaled Jarrar showing Palestinian soldiers marching



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Comments [6]

George Washington from NYC

Food for thought! What is the point of showing this list of names here in NY? Are we to guess which are soldiers and which are civilians, thus symbolically duplicating the role of the IDF? I suspect not; rather, the work pretends to be a list of victims, of innocents -- a smart propaganda move, since generally it is Palestinian terrorists (and now Muslim terrorists) who murder innocents.

Jul. 27 2014 12:25 PM
Harry S

He's a veritable Good Will Ambassador. Think he still has his gun?

Jul. 27 2014 11:51 AM
Myriam Vanneschi from NYC

Thank you very much Gisele and Deborah and WNYC for this sharp and thoughtful review. It captures exactly what Khaled's art is about.

Jul. 27 2014 12:04 AM
NessieG from New York

What work is he producing to challenge the corruption of the Palestinian Authority?

Jul. 25 2014 12:15 PM

As so frequently happens, the pieces done by Ms. Solomon are too brief. I will go to see Khalad Jarrar's work at the Whitebox Art Center as a result of this review. While Jarrar's work is about containment, specifically related to his experience as a Palestinian living in the West Bank it seems to be about universal themes as well. How are we, living in the US contained by our life experience? Perhaps, part of the answer to that question is the current show at the New Museum. The exhibit has been described as the first exhibit in the US to be devoted to contemporary art from the Arab World. Why have we not experienced art from this part of the world before?

Jul. 25 2014 12:01 PM
Madelon from New York City

We need a lot more programs about the reality of life in Palestine.

Jul. 25 2014 07:53 AM

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