Traction 1: Epic Artist Roundtable October 2014

Friday 31st October 2014,  village of Deir Ghassaneh

Participants: Jumana Aboud, Yasmine Eid-Sabbagh, Sandi Hilal, Khaled Hourani, Yazan Khalili, Jumana Manna, Oraib Toukan, Mohanad Yacoubi, Inas Yassin. Moderators: Esmail Nashif, Khalil Rabah, Rawan Sharaf.
Brief: International attention is a strange thing in contemporary art. We scoff and we belittle, but at the end of the day, we do play ball. Even if the discourse is stereotypical, the working conditions abysmal, and the politics are laughable at best. So we content ourselves with nagging behind the scenes, and promising ourselves it’s the very last time we ever do this, ever. This proposal is borne of the realization that there is little hope of improving the level of a conversation that has been happily chasing its tail since Les magiciens de la terre. Unless, that is, the said contribution is forceful enough to stand its own ground on multiple levels – and, indeed, to change the conversational parameters altogether. Which is why we are hereby proposing to create a material setting, a discursive dynamic, and a socioprofessional atmosphere which is somewhat different. Aiming for a good degree of autonomy, even as we are accepting the gravitational pull of a specific institutional environment. To this end, we propose an extensive discussion amongst ten Palestinian artists, artists with a degree of experience in grappling not only with the hegemonic tropes of artworld internationalism, but also with matters of documentation, historicization, agency and accountability. A discussion addressing the above topic via concrete issues of visual languages, display formats, exhibition structures, research processes, career strategies and so on. The setting, importantly, needs to be as far away from everything as possible. A claustrophobic no exit situation. And our discussion – in Arabic – would need to span four hours, preferably more. The sheer number of participants, the heated intimacy, the excessive period of time, the entrapment of the setting, and the dramatic nature of the situation: these and other factors are what will lead to the kind of critical mass we need to tilt the conversation towards something else. As for the public, an audience would be allowed on board, provided it agree to stick around to the very end. The conversation at hand is in urgent, not to say desperate need of new directions.