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The Jerusalem Show

Editor's Foreword: Anthony Downey

007 / 24 October 2014


Pekka Niittyvirta, from the series Obliquity, 2014. Photograph.
Pekka Niittyvirta, from the series Obliquity, 2014. Photograph.

Hold to the now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past. 

– James Joyce 


And your visions are your exile in a world where a shadow has no identity, no gravity. You walk as if you were someone else. ­

– Mahmoud Darwish 



In a city bound by the sinuous threads of history, geopolitics, occupation, and the day-to-day ignominy of state-ordained containment and illegal annexation, the question of  restrictions, boundaries, limits and peripheries is a far from abstract concern for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. To produce an internationally renowned  show under these conditions is remarkable, but to do so consistently is such an extraordinary feat of imagination, determination and improvisation, that Ibraaz is all the more proud to be supporting The Jerusalem Show as this year's media partner. Given that The Jerusalem Show also involves a highly discursive field of representation and engagement, presenting works on the ground, so to speak, as well as performances, and various forms of research-based intervention, Ibraaz, with the support of the Kamel Lazaar Foundation, are particularly pleased to be taking on the task of presenting as much of these activities as possible. Over the coming weeks and months, and working  closely with the show's organisers and artists, our role will entail not only producing a formal online catalogue for the show, but will also involve documenting the day-to-day development of the show and its attendant events.  


As part of our first installment, we will publish contributions from the show's organizers, Basak Senova and Jack Persekian, alongside contextual essays from Jalal Toufic, Tina Sherwell, and Stephanie Bailey. Thereafter, we will present a number of talks from artists and recorded seminars with local and international speakers. The Ibraaz channel will simultaneously showcase live performances and make available all of this material, including an online children's activity book and an online guide to the show, for download to audiences within the city and beyond. We are, above all, looking forward to contributing to this important process given that, since its inception in 2007, The Jerusalem Show has, against all the odds,  negotiated, intersected and reconfigured the political imaginary of the city and its environs. 


For this year's iteration, the subject of 'fractures' – be they in time, or memory, or in our cognition of our world – is explored across an impressive array of media and art practices. Presented within the broader framework of the second Qalandiya International (Qi), and under the rubric of 'Archives, Lived and Shared', the process and challenge of recording and representing the reality of Jerusalem is a significant theme in itself and presents its own challenges for the artists, curators,  audiences, and for us here at Ibraaz, too. In speaking of fractures, however, we should note the extended sense of a fracture is not only a schism (or a rupture in time and space), but also an aperture – a means to look further into the city's reality. Moreover, and whilst an archive is often viewed as a record of sorts  (a collation of historical documents that orders and records information about people, places and events), it is an unstable entity that is as much about determining the future as it is about defining the past. The Jerusalem Show VII, in this context, is future-oriented, as is our coverage of it. It is not just a purview of what is happening on the ground, so to speak, but a bold attempt at redefining the role of art during times of conflict as a practice that defies the real politik of international power relations and the apparently durable inequities of our time.


This is not, I should note, an attempt to position visual culture in the role of antagonist or activist; nor is it to suggest a formal instrumentalization of art so that it becomes answerable to the political, social, economic, and historical anxieties of our age; however, this is to observe, as the organizers have all too readily alluded to elsewhere, that contemporary visual culture can reimagine that which, for a variety of reasons, remains politically unimaginable. In this context, contemporary visual culture, as we will see, can not only offer a differential way of thinking about and engaging with some of society's most pressing concerns, but it can also rethink what we understand by the term 'politics' in these disputed contexts and circumstances. 


The here and now, to paraphrase the epigraph from James Joyce noted above, is a fulcrum of sorts through which the all-too-imminent future plunges into our pasts. The here and now is unfolding across the city of Jerusalem as I write and it is this sense of immediacy, if not propinquity, that we are hoping to explore through online simultaneous coverage and future documentation. It is worth noting, albeit in passing, that the epigraph in question has its own antecedent: one found in the writing of St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), who lived in a region now known as modern-day Algeria. Apart from his influence on theology and philosophy, Augustine's writings have proved durable in studies of knowledge production, and the reference Joyce was alluding to reads thus: 


For what is done needs expectation, that it may be done, and memory, that it may be understood as much as possible. And expectation is of future things, and memory is of things past. But the intention to act is of the present, through which all future flows into the past. 


If there ever was a time to act, a time for public and private institutions – not to mention public and private funding – to come together in the name and cause of cultural production, civic society, and the discursive dissemination of knowledge, that time is undoubtedly now, and in the context of The Jerusalem Show. 


It is with these points foremost in our minds that we felt it was not only important to provide a platform for this show, but also to expand its reach beyond the all-too-apparent boundaries and physical restrictions placed on the city. The now, despite being beholden to antagonistic forces (or, perhaps, precisely because it is beholden), needs archiving, for sure, but that can only ever be about understanding and preparing for the demands, real and imaginary, of the future. Over the coming weeks and months, we will join in with this debate in real time and produce the show's first online catalogue. We also would like to take this opportunity to invite our readers and community of supporters to produce feedback and input into this process as it happens across its various physical and virtual sites of production. 


Anthony Downey

Editor-in-Chief, Ibraaz