Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Wall and the checkpoint

There are an endless number of pictures of the Wall and there are an endless number of pictures of checkpoints. Many of the local visual artists who live on the West Bank are sick of those images. It’s like the whisky bottle in the gangster movie. They have become the standard ingredient in much visual art as well as in many of the films that are produced about Palestine. This is also the case in locally produced artworks, but to a larger extent in the work of visiting Western artists and filmmakers. Images of the Wall and of the checkpoints keep the Palestinian people in a frozen image of the situation in the West Bank; this is the general opinion here in Ramallah amongst the people I hang out with. The Wall and the checkpoints are built by the Israelis and are their work. By making them a representation of the people confined by these facilities, you turn the Palestinians into silenced victims. The Wall is already in our heads, as the local people say, and so it doesn’t have to be reinforced any further by the continuous repetition of these images. So images of the Wall and checkpoints are contested representations.

For some reason, though, this ban made it somehow attractive and interesting for me to also reproduce these images of the Wall and checkpoints. I’m not sure what it was that drove me but maybe this crime would, for me, create a deeper understanding of these images and how they function. For this reason, I got up early Sunday morning and went to Qualandya to photograph and film the Wall and the checkpoint. I can clearly understand the analysis of how images of the Wall and checkpoints work in reinforcing the persistence of the Wall and Israeli control. So, every time you reproduce an image of the Wall you strengthen it on a symbolic level. The question is then: which representations could then contribute to smashing these facilities. With these considerations in the back of my mind, I recorded images of the Wall and the Qualandya checkpoint. I wanted to penetrate the power of these images. In a kind of way, it’s similar to what Godard had done in his film about Palestine, ‘Here and Elsewhere’ from 1970. He said that there are too many images of revolution but too few actual revolutions. In a similar vein you could say that there are too many images staging a critique of the Wall and too few who actually do anything to make the Wall crackle. For me, this excursion was perhaps the first step in developing a critique of representation with regard to the occupation and to also consider which images not only represent and reproduce, but which ones actually contribute to smashing these constructions, concretely and symbolically.



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