Where We Come From
Debs and Co. is pleased to present Where We Come From, the first New York City solo exhibition by Palestinian artist Emily Jacir.
For the main project exhibited, Jacir asked other Palestinians from around the world, "If I could do something for you, anywhere in Palestine, what would it be?" The artist used her American passport and its accompanying "freedom of movement" status in an attempt to realize desires of people who have limited or no access to their own nation. The exhibition documents in text, photography and video the artist's fulfillment of these requests across artificial and dangerous borders. The presentation is simple and straightforward: photographs record a vista denied, a family separated, a bill paid, a historic district obliterated. A text in Arabic and English records each request and its outcome (some requests have been impossible to fulfill).
The requests made of the artist range from the seemingly everyday to the more obviously harrowing. Her charges vary from "play soccer with the first Palestinian child you meet in Haifa" to "go to my mother's grave in Jerusalem on her birthday and put flowers and pray." This latter charge was impossible for him to do himself, as he is required to ask permission of the Israeli authorities when he wishes to enter Jerusalem. On the last anniversary of his mother's death, he was denied access to her grave. When Jacir went there in his stead, she was surprised to see tourists surrounding the neighboring grave of Oscar Schindler. This hero of resistance to the Nazis is buried next to a woman whose son lives a few kilometers away in Bethlehem and who is forbidden from paying his respects. The irony of the situation sheds light on the calculated division and dispersal of the people, history and culture of Palestine.
Jacir's project arises, partly, in response to the proliferation of checkpoints, borders and boundaries that has occured within and across Palestine through the years. Even those who carry a priceless American passport (who are thereby theoretically able to cross these various boundaries) are subject to dehumanizing humiliations in an effort to discourage people from entering or moving around the country. Jacir began her 190-minute video piece Crossing Surda (A Record of Going to and from Work) after she had been held for three hours at gunpoint in freezing rain by an Israeli soldier who had thrown her American passport in the mud. Following this incident, Jacir secretly and illegally recorded a week of her daily crossing as she travelled within the West Bank from Ramallah to Birzeit University. The two-channel video reveals an everyday commute to work through extraordinary conditions that have somehow become "normal."
This spring, Emily Jacir will be included in the Whitney Museum ISP's exhibition Homeland, in private/public at Häusler Contemporary in Munich, and in Made in Palestine at the Art Car Museum in Houston.
Jacir has recently exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art Oxford, the University Art Gallery in Boulder, the Queens Museum of Art, Apex Art, the Art Car Museum in Houston, and Gallery 400 in Chicago. She was included in Greater New York at PS1 in 2000.
Born in 1970, Jacir was a PS1 studio program resident in 2000-2001, a World Views resident in 1999-2000, and attended the Whitney Independent Study Program from 1998-1999.
This project was originally commissioned by Al-MA'MAL Foundation for
Contemporary Art in Jerusalem. It was made possible by the generous support of Al-Ma'Mal as well as Alex Khalil.
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