The Israeli-Palestinian conflict forms the framework of the exhibition MIDDLE EAST EUROPE, in which, for the first time within a Czech context, works by leading Israeli and Palestinian artists are presented in direct confrontation with works by artists from Central and Eastern Europe. The exhibition draws attention to issues associated with political art, opens up the question of the artist’s responsibility and observes how the interpretation of a work of art is transformed if we place it into a different cultural context.

The contemporary media environment is distinguished by easy availability of images depicting conflicts taking place anywhere in the world. A good example of this phenomenon is clips from Israel and the occupied territories, such as the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which is familiar to ordinary citizens of the “West”, despite the fact that the great majority of them have never visited the Middle East. On the basis of this mediated reality, we frequently arrive at conclusions, which are characterised by oversimplification or misunderstanding.

The MIDDLE EAST EUROPE exhibition offers a dialogue between artists who are reflecting the theme on the basis of their own experiences and artists who are familiar with this same situation only via the media. In this situation, many of the exhibiting artists themselves highlight the role played by the media in shaping what we call reality. Tamara Moyzes, the exhibition curator, states: “In my opinion this exhibition, which maps the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, may on a more basic level serve as a model study of the functioning of political art in general. It points to the ethical challenges in connection with artistic testimony about events of which the artist has no personal experience. How is the perception of a work altered when it is removed from its country of its origin to the location with which it deals, and how is its significance altered by this displacement? Can such art have an influence upon the events it describes? Should the artist bear responsibility?”

The exhibited works mediate a more differentiated approach to the situation in the Middle East for the viewers, whilst at the same time drawing attention to the historical and contemporary interconnection of the Middle East and Europe. Some of the artists find the roots of today’s problem in European anti-Semitism, others focus on the theme of the tension between cultures within today’s Europe and emphasise how thin the boundary is between fear, religious or racial intolerance and physical violence.

“We wanted to show that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not divorced from the fate of Europe. Europe bears its share of the responsibility for what is happening in the Middle East today. Similarly, within the wider context, growing manifestations of racism, anti-Semitism or irrational fear of Islam are a part of the problem,” states Zuzana Štefková, who conceived the exhibition as curator together with Tamara Moyzes.

The exhibition contains works presenting both “high politics” and personal human drama, terrorism and peace activism, generally comprehensible slogans and deeply contextual testimonies. The theme of the reflection of the media reality is confronted in the exhibition with intimate works of art reflecting fear, but also hope on the part of the Israelis and Palestinians. Within the boundaries of possibility, some of the artists attempt to outline potential solutions to the conflict.

The Prague exhibition sees the first ever presentation outside the borders of Israel of the “living” statue of Ariel Sharon on a hospital bed by the Israeli artist Noam Braslavsky, which won acclaim from the international press and revived interest in Sharon and his politics in Israel itself following its presentation in Tel Aviv last year. A sensation was also caused by the migrating Palestinian embassy by the artist Khaled Jarrar entitled Live and Work in Palestine, which will be presented in Prague in April. While Jarrar’s activist gesture presupposes the foundation of a sovereign Palestinian state, the Israeli artist Yael Bartana, who last year represented Poland at the biennale in Venice, describes an imaginary return of Jewish kibbutz settlers to Poland in the second part of her film trilogy, entitled Wall and Tower. The role of international terrorism, but above all the part played by the media in depicting this phenomenon, is highlighted by the Swiss artist Christoph Draeger, who reconstructs the abduction of the Israeli Olympic contestants in Munich.

The overall impression of the exhibition is completed by works which are on the boundary between art and activism, such as the video by Emad Bornad, portraying protests against the construction of the separating wall in the Palestinian village of Biľin, the authors of which were inspired by Cameron’s film Avatar, or the action Liberate All Ghettoes by the former Israeli air force captain and now conscientious objector Yonatan Shapira in the former Warsaw ghetto. Meanwhile the exhibition curator Tamara Moyzes has a wealth of personal experiences from the time of the second intifada, when she worked together with peace activists on both sides in the occupied territories. Together with The artist Shlomi Yaffe at the MIDDLE EAST EUROPE exhibition she presents a work which, in the form of a museum display, maps the accession of Israel to the European Union.

The MIDDLE EAST EUROPE exhibition had its premiere in reduced form last September in Jerusalem, and is continuing in Palestine and Budapest, with echoes of the project also planned in Slovakia and Poland.

Concept of exhibition series MIDDLE EAST EUROPE by Tamara Moyzes

The exhibitions in Jerusalem and Prague Curated by Tamara Moyzes, Zuzana Štefková

The exhibition in Budapest Curated by Eszter Lázár

The exhibition in Bratislava Curated by Tamara Moyzes, Juraj Čarný

The exhibition in Poland Curated by Tamara Moyzes, Łukasz Dziedzic

Exhibiting artists:

Anisa Ashkar (PS), Nasrin Abu Baker (PS), Yael Bartana (IL), Emad Bornat (PS), Noam Braslavsky (IL), Noam Darom (IL), Christoph Draeger (CH), Radovan Čerevka (SK), Ronen Eidelman (IL), Róza El-Hassan (HU), Fawzy Emrany (PS), Hanna Farah - Kufer Birim (PS)& Hila Lulu Lin (IL), Raafat Hattab (PS), Ihab Jadallah (PS), Khaled Jarrar (PS), Cheb Kammerer & Sharon Horodi (DE/IL), Wolfram P. Kastner (DE), Michelle & Nicolas (CZ), Milan Kohout (CZ), Milan Kozelka (CZ), Radim Labuda (SK), Jumana Manna (PS), Shahar Marcus (IL), Volker März (DE), Miklós Mécs & Judit Fischer (HU), Avi Mograbi (IL), Tamara Moyzes (SK), Damir Nikšić (BiH), Tamar Paikes (IL), Public Movement (IL), Itamar Rose& Yossi Atia (IL), Yonatan Shapira (IL)& Ewa Jasiewicz (PL), Joanna Rajkowska (PL), Ruti Sela& Maayan Amir (IL), Ivan Vosecký (CZ), Shlomi Yaffe (IL)