Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dispatch: Emily Jacir

[Two scenes from “Lydda Airport” (2007-2009), single-channel animation, 5 minutes 21 seconds. “Stazione” (2009), public intervention.]

In “Dispatch”—Emily Jacir’s second one-person exhibition at Alexander and Bonin—the artist presents works from two recent projects, “Lydda Airport” and “Stazione.” Running through November 28, 2009, “Dispatch” gives us a soupçon of the media range in which Jacir works. Living and working between Ramallah and New York, she utilizes video, photography, social interventions, performance, painting, writing, and sound. Born in Bagdad, this Generation X’er spent her childhood in Saudi Arabia and her high school years in Italy. Having exhibited extensively and internationally since the mid-1990s, Jacir has had solo exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, London, Linz, Beirut, and Ramallah. Jacir is a recipient of the Golden Lion for an artist under 40 at the 52nd Venice Biennale (2007) for her installation “Material for a Film” (2007) as well the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s Hugo Boss Prize (2008).

“Lydda Airport” is a short film taking place at the eponymous location sometime in the mid- to late-1930s. The airstrip of four concrete runways on the outskirts of the Arab town of Lydda was built chiefly for military purposes in 1936 by the British during their League of Nations Mandate of Palestine. Lydda Airport was an important stop along the “Empire Route” for their national airline, Imperial Airways (that became—through various mergers—BOAC in 1939 and eventually British Airways in 1974). Until 1939, Lydda Airport was the world’s largest aerodrome. Central to Jacir’s narrative is Hannibal—a four-engine, long-range biplane airliner—one of eight planes making up the Handley Page fleet, which were the largest passenger planes in the world at that time. Hannibal mysteriously disappeared in March 1940 somewhere over the Gulf of Oman en route to Sharjah.

Jacir’s film was also inspired by Edmond Tamari, a transport company employee from Jaffa, who received a communication that he should take a bouquet of flowers to Lydda Airport and wait for the arrival of Amelia Earhart in order to welcome her to Palestine. She never arrived. During “Operation Danny” in July 1948, Lydda Airport was captured by the Israeli Defense Forces and renamed Lod International Airport. In 1974 the airport was renamed Ben Gurion International Airport. “Lydda Airport” was commissioned by the Pick Laudati Fund for Arts Computing at Northwestern University where the artist was in residence in 2008. The installation also includes a sculpture developed by Jacir while editing the film at Civitella Ranieri.

Jacir has been instrumental in contributing to the development of the arts scene in the West Bank since 1999. Among the cultural organizations she has assisted include Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center Foundation (a nongovernmental, nonprofit dedicated to the visual arts, and Palestinian identity and narrative), the Qattan Foundation (aiming to empower freethinking, enlightened individuals to overcome challenges of war and injustice to create a flourishing and dynamic society in Palestine and the Arab world), and the Virtual Gallery of Birzeit University’s Museum (offering a window on contemporary art—particularly of art, artists, projects, and exhibitions by Palestinians). Having curated the first international video festival in Ramallah (2002), Jacir also works as a full-time instructor at the International Academy of Art in that city.

Also exhibited are photographs and the brochure of Jacir’s projected “Stazione,” which was created for the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009) “Stazione” was a public intervention that was to have been situated on each of the 24 vaporetti stops along route #1 of the water bus route, beginning at the “Lido” stop and concluding at “Piazzale Roma.” Jacir translated the names of each station into Arabic and planned to place the Arabic translations on all the stops next to their Italian counterparts thereby creating a bilingual transportation route through the city. The Arabic inscriptions were meant to place each floating platform in direct dialogue with the surrounding architecture and urban design, thereby linking them with various elements of Venice's shared heritage with the Arab world. The realization of “Stazione” was unexpectedly cancelled without explanation by Venetian municipal authorities.

Among this Palestinian-American’s more noted works are her painful testament and interactive piece “Memorial to 418 Palestinian Villages Destroyed, Depopulated and Occupied by Israel in 1948” (2001) in which 140 participated in New York, her conceptual and intensely political “Where We Come From” (2001-2003), and “Crossing Surda” (2003)—a record of going to and from her job at Birzeit University. The latter springs from her experience filming her feet with a video camera at a checkpoint when an Israeli soldier threatened her with an M-16 pointed toward her temple—forcing her to spend a day standing in the cold winter rain.

Museums exhibiting Jacir’s unforgettable conceptual works have included the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco), Whitney Museum of American Art, Palazzo delle Papesse (Siena), CCS Bard Hessel Museum, and Modern Art Oxford.

Dispact: Emily Jacir

Through November 28, 2009

@ Alexander and Bonin Gallery

132 Tenth Avenue (between 18th & 19th), NYC 10011

For further information …

Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center Foundation:

Qattan Foundation:

Al-Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art:

Virtual Gallery, Birzeit University Museum:

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