Shrouded in conflict, popular perceptions of Palestinians are often clouded by war, and of the ongoing search for resolution. New York artist Adam Abel challenges the endless battle-tinged narratives coming from the West Bank and seeks to show a different version of Palestine — an interruption from the barrage of news stories depicting fighting. This is told through his piece, “Palestine Interrupted,” a work geared toward the softer side of the small sliver of land on the banks of the Jordan River.
January 17 – February 14
Exhibition Reception with artist’s talk: Tuesday, January 28, 5:40 – 7 pm
“Palestine is something that I feel very close to,” Abel said. “I come from a Jewish family, and I come from Philadelphia, and so that also has made me very much connected to what’s going on in Palestine and with ‘my people.’ I ended up marrying an Arab-American playwright from Lebanon.”
The interest in Palestine was piqued during his time at Parsons The New School For Design, when he began visiting the state and met a Palestinian activist who became his partner for “QALQILYA,” a documentary that explores the difficulty in telling a Palestinian story to a Western audience.
“In the beginning, it’s inescapable to notice the checkpoints and the walls and surveillance and the Israeli military vehicles. There’s too many of them,” Abel said of his trips to Palestine. “I thought of all of these as the barriers; after spending so much time working on this project, I realized that a bigger wall was that narratives just can’t leave Palestine. The people can’t tell their own stories.”
To combat this, Abel focused on telling the other story — the one of kids beat-boxing, of skateboarders and rollerbladers — of times outside of strife. Abel began “Palestine Interrupted” by imagining a physical space that could best showcase the different narratives.
“This circle idea is how it started,” Abel said. “It’s about process, and life is about thinking about a way of what needs to get done. I started looking at all my footage and picking out these moments that weren’t necessarily going to be part of the film, but that I would use near the end, that I think served to convey ideas about emotion.”
Originally, Abel envisioned a perfect circle of nine monitors, each showing a clip on repeat. Swivel stools would be at the center, and each person would turn from one monitor to the next. But because different exhibit areas call for different installation techniques, Abel wanted to tell the story of movement beyond borders — for his work to go beyond the installation.
“I approached it from a central place, with the idea of the circle engaging with movement and, not incidentally … the story is about a bunch of kids who use movement to break barriers of confinement,” Abel said. “So I was really interested in kind of taking that idea into the spaces the film was going to be featured in, with the narratives and the expression of movement.”
Rather than tell one story, Abel’s nine clips tell the story of routine, mundane, typical occurrences for the Palestinian people, without focusing on the political and military conflict.
“There’s a piece about olives, and it’s a story of an olive becoming olive oil. Then there’s a goat that becomes a holiday meal; You see the goat alive and then you see the goat dead, chopped to pieces,” Abel said. “Then there’s a narrative about some sort of object in a bag, and the video is shot inside of the bag, and it’s gone through the process of inspection.”
More interested in what’s not shown than what is, Abel deliberately leaves out the war-torn shots, in order to bring to life something he hopes to be more meaningful.
“I would like everyone to experience something; maybe something that they hadn’t before or find out something they didn’t know,” Abel said. “I would be interested in knowing how a viewer engages with their own understanding of Palestine through the experience of seeing the work. I don’t want them to think a certain way or direct them. I’m just interested in how they engage with their own understanding.”