The Body @ Gallery One-Palestine
By Yousef Khatib
Since Prehistory, not only has mankind been attempting to achieve a better understanding of the various components of the universe, but also been creatively seeking different media to demonstrate and communicate found results and outcomes. Experts and scholars to communicate with the public such significant achievements have utilized exhibitions as a medium of presentation and interpretation. The roots of the exhibitions phenomenon can be traced back to its language origin. “The word exhibition was mentioned as early as 1649. It is a derivative of the Latin word expositio, meaning displaying or putting on a show.” However, Exhibitions are not mere collections of objects or products displayed in a certain time and space. They are process-oriented and research-based phenomena, as well as educating and enjoyable experiences that are planned and designed to immerse visitors’ senses and feelings, and stimulate their inquisitiveness and sense of discovery.
Gallery One (directed by Samar Martha) is the first art gallery to be established in Palestine, it aims at exhibiting contemporary art by Palestinian and International artists. Last week, it hosted the solo exhibition The Body by Ayman Essa: a Palestinian artist from Gaza. The Body is a collection of oil paintings and murals on canvas passionately and exquisitely enameled in blue and red; a question of the female body in contemporary Palestine; a relocation of visual culture from Gaza to the West Bank; and a communication medium between the two parts of the Un-united States of Palestine. One may ask, “How did Ayman get oil paint and canvas to produce his masterpieces? Did they pass through the Gazan underground tunnels from Egypt with cement, medicine and food? Did he use blue sky and red blood instead of paint to create? How did these paintings travel from Gaza to Ramallah? Did these females fly? Did these bodies telepathically commute to Ramallah? Where am I?”
On the other hand, the fact that exhibitions are events occurring in a space renders them as social phenomena that foster the sense of togetherness on different levels; such as among communities, scholars and families. This is a very important quality of exhibitions since it brings people with different backgrounds in a common space, and encourages them to discuss and share perspectives, and thus stimulates social interaction and critical thinking. The Body was a venue for social and intellectual interaction, where critical and powerful discussions took place amongst the visitors that strongly enriched the exhibition and its experience- it is the physical and tangible social dimension in exhibition environments what renders the interaction more powerful, intimate and vivid. I accompanied my ex-students from the Department of Architecture at Birzeit University to Gallery One to see The Body. We roamed and asked, “How can architecture and body metamorphose into a representation of an occupied presence? Are we living in a colonial or a postcolonial city? Where are we?”
(Yousef Khatib is a Design Architect, author and graduate of Birzeit University in Palestine. He can be reached at KhatibYousef@gmail.com)