The Liminal Spaces project began long before its official launching, in fact long before it had ever been conceived or named. Its beginnings may be traced to early 2004, to another project – April 1st. Created by the Artists Without Walls group, the latter included Palestinian and Israeli artists who sought ways in which to voice their criticism of the construction of the Separation Wall which splits and cuts the Palestinian villages located along the Green Line.
April 1st was selected as the project's title and date as a type of hoax intended to make the Separation Wall transparent. To this end, two video cameras were positioned on either side, each with its back to the Wall and its lens directed at the view facing it. Each camera was cable connected to a video projector located on the other side of the wall, which projected the occurrences captured by the camera on the opposite side in real time, thus creating a virtual window in the wall via closed-circuit video. The video window was set in the village of Abu Dis which is cut in two by the Wall. For several hours the village residents could observe the other side of their village and its inhabitants through the window. The event, declared an art event, was initiated to raise awareness of the damage brought about by the Separation Wall, by inviting an Israeli public which, albeit conscious of the Wall's construction, had never physically experienced the presence of this concrete monument, nor its detrimental implications.
The joint work on April 1st, as well as the resulting conversations and friendships, formed the basis for Liminal Spaces. One of the major questions which accompanied the initial phases of the project was whether artistic projects created by Israeli, Palestinian, and international artists are capable of challenging the separation systems physically and mentally constructed by the State of Israel over many years between Israelis and Palestinians, both within Israel and between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Liminal Spaces aspired primarily to establish the absent platform everso necessary for joint work and action and for dialogue between the Israeli and Palestinian art communities, a platform which would be able to exist despite the growing difficulties experienced by Palestinians under Israeli occupation, such as denial of freedom of movement and other basic human rights.
Three three-day seminars were held as part of Liminal Spaces. The first took place in March 2006, and was based on hikes and tours from morning till midday in the areas adjacent to the Qalandiya refugee camp, a visit to El-Bireh and Ramallah, guided by scholars, professionals, and activists from different disciplines such as architecture and urban planning. It began with a tour which departed from East Jerusalem, continued through the matrix of Jewish settlements around Jerusalem, arriving Introduction 7 at the Atarot (Qalandiya) checkpoint. We rented a space located approximately 500 meters from the checkpoint (previously used as a furniture shop) for the duration of the conference, so that every noon following the morning tour we could return there for additional discussions, lectures, and presentations. Following the first conference we offered the participants to return to the area which we had surveyed during the three seminar days (Route 60),2 to conceive of artworks in collaboration with the professionals who had joined us. At that time, we assessed the project's duration as eight months, and the ultimate goal was to stage three exhibitions in three cities: Ramallah, Holon, and Leipzig. We arrived in Leipzig in October 2006, when most of the works were in different stages of production – "half-baked" was the term we used. The meeting in Leipzig likewise included a seminar. Having departed from the geographical area addressed by the project, we tried to bridge that distance and discuss a theme which we deemed relevant to the project's continuation as well as to the hosting institute, GfZK – Museum of Contemporary Arts Leipzig. The second conference thus dealt with the social and political responsibility of artistic institutions in the context of the Middle East – characterized by growing violence and the violation of human and civil rights, the continuation of Israeli occupation policies, the construction of an apartheid wall, and the total collapse of the peace process – as well as in the context of central Europe in the post-Fordist era, in which the erosion of social-democratic principles challenges artists and institutions to survive in a harsh social climate and fight for greater public involvement. During the work on the exhibition and the opening of the conference, we realized that the project required no concluding exhibition, and that in fact we were only at the beginning of the process. We decided to go on with the project without committing to another exhibition or any final project. While conceiving of the exhibition and conference in Leipzig, a considerable gap was created between the way in which we wanted to communicate the project and the way in which the Leipzig museum wanted to exhibit it. Although they were partners to the project, as a German arts center they could not promote the marketing of a project which calls to stop the Occupation, or to be more accurate – could not afford using the word "occupation" in any marketing material. Thus we found ourselves, Israelis and Palestinians, opening a shared front to call a spade a spade, maintaining that this was the only way to face reality. Beautification, indirectness, and the use of political terminology such as "the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," only hinder discussion on the "situation," adding layers of ambiguity where clarity is needed. The third meeting was held in October 2007, approximately 18 months after the first. Like the latter, it consisted of morning bus tours and hikes accompanied by professionals, and afternoon sessions. This time the conference focused on the cities Lydda, Ramla, Jaffa (mixed cities with high percentages of Muslims, Christians, and Jews), Bil'in (a village in the Palestinian Authority whose land was confiscated due to the route of the Wall), and Taibe (a Palestinian village in Israel's north). Thus the three-day seminar largely focused on Israeli territory and the repercussions of the occupation within Israel: the conflicts, tensions, and violence embedded in the daily relationship between the Jewish and Palestinian communities within Israel. Each session proposed a unique glance into the social reality and the intricate interrelations between colonists and colonized, occupiers and occupied. In retrospect, one of the most important aspects of the project was that it took place, transformed, and adapted itself to the dynamic reality in the region. At the very outset we postulated that a network of collaboration and sharing of knowledge are crucial to such a project, yet we could not foresee how such a platform would evolve since we had no role models in the form of previously held like projects. In collaboration with the artists, we (the project curators) sought methodologies that would challenge the limits and limitations, explore their penetrability, and their ability to serve as points of contact and communication. We tried to push and challenge the limitations on movement between Israel and Palestine anchored in laws and regulations, and often in prejudice and ignorance. Along with the project participants we sought and examined different ways to explore the physical and mental liminal spaces, ways which either confront or interact with them.
Eyal Danon, Galit Eilat, Reem Fadda, Philipp Misselwitz
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