Saturday, November 17, 2012

Student Paper Analyzing the work of Ariane Littman

Henry Weltman


This paper will be analyzing the Fertile Crescent art gallery and Ariane Littman’s work.

It will specifically address how Littman makes use of different media and how it informs her

work, how her work has evolved over time, and lastly how Littman discusses her work and how

that enhances the audiences understanding of it.

Ariane Littman’s work began with an interest in borders and the power they had over

people and the reality of the world. So her choice of medium was to use maps, as those are the

first choice of reference in order see borders between countries, peoples, and lands. Littman

would then rearrange, destroy, or censor the maps in various ways depending on what she

intended to illustrate with the piece. In one piece she printed out the road maps of a city and

would highlight only the roads of Jewish neighborhoods in one iteration than the Muslim in the

next in order to identify these different places. In another work of hers she recreated Israel as a

puzzle, with the space between pieces representing what she interpreted as scars on the country

itself. The medium of maps that she uses is appropriate for her objective of addressing and

redefining borders, as those lines on the map play a very real and physical role in her life in

Israel. Those borders inform her of the reality she lives in and the lines on those maps are what

she wishes to change or emphasize about that reality. In the few videos Littman has made, her

manipulation of maps is a much more personal and cathartic example of expression. For example

the film where she is trying to scrub away the borders and lines that make up Israel projected

onto her body as if by washing away the borders Israel and in turn she will be better. The videos

also contribute to portraying her frustration at times with the state of the world and lend to her

ability to not only show this artistically but also physically. This leads into the next topic of how

her work has evolved over time.

Initially Littman wanted to explore the borders of Israel but as she progressed further into

the project it took her to lands and people beyond the original scope of her project. It became

more personal after being physically present in various areas of conflict or turbulence and

interacting with the people who live there. As a result of these interactions her focus shifted

more towards healing and away from concentrating on borders. This focus on healing of the

country began to become synonymous with the healing of Littman personally, the healing of one

vicariously healing the other. Through these experiences and bearing witness to the victims that

are born of the conflicts on both sides of the borderline, she cultivated her new attitude and

objective towards healing the country. To reflect this change bandages became the defining

visual symbol of this new theme in her work. Littman has created film pieces that illustrate this

point. Notably one in which she bandages a dead olive tree located by a checkpoint, where at one

point in the film she also bandages her feet to protect herself from the brambles surrounding the

tree. This quite literally reflected her desire to heal herself vicariously through healing the land

she saw torn apart by its borders. In another film she once again worked with maps, but this time

she played a surgeon operating on a damaged or rather injured map of Israel, while breaking

news reports were playing in the background. This was an interesting piece, as it appealed

visually and audibly to the audience. Also interesting was the fact that Israel was a metaphorical

patient that Littman sought to literally heal. The theme of healing took over the later work but

didn’t eliminate altogether the importance of maps and borders to Littman. Instead it only

revised the method she used or believed would prove most powerful in expressing what she


Ariane Littman discusses her work as a walk through her experiences and how she came

to terms with them through those very same pieces. Each piece of work is representative of a

stage in her understanding of how the people of Israel interacted with the geographical and

cultural borders established in the country. The pieces themselves reflect her personal input and

reaction to those events and ideas that she encountered. The lecture itself really helped to

illustrate and drive home the turmoil and tension that lines on a map can generate within the

world and how battering it can be on an individual level to someone’s lifestyle and well being.

For example at one point in the lecture she showed pictures of civilians caught within the

military end of a political conflict. She expressed how those political borders dictate these

conflicts yet it is the people behind these borders who suffer the consequences. Ironically these

conflicts dissolve the meaning of those borders to the individual when they endanger friends and

family, people just help each other to survive. Also interesting was how deeply meditative and

cathartic the process of producing art in this vein with this objective was for the artist herself,

how she found a voice to protest what she saw wrong with the world in her work. Her work also

reflects a deep loyalty to Israel and all its people as well as a great pride in being one of those

people by how passionately she constructs and presents her work. Her lecture really helped

outline how she was emotionally invested in the works on display and what she sought to convey

through them.

Ariane Littman’s work displays a country cut and torn apart by borders not only on

maps but among people. She wants to change or abolish those borders in the hopes of healing

Israel, those borders appearing to her as scars marring the county’s surface and people. Her work

expresses a deep desire to heal those scars and change those lines that separate people from one

another that isolate, segregate, and instigate. To in turn heal what pain she feels for her country.

Ariane Littman’s work puts a new perspective on cartography, exposing lines on a map to be

rifts between people, not innocuous political insulation. Considering the object of her work is

Israel and how hard many have fought for those borders Littman seeks to tear down and

rearrange in her work, it is especially impressive how delicately her work is handled. Also worth

noting is how unconventional her ideas are in respect to healing the state of Israel. Her work

makes her out to be more of an abstract cartographer than an artist but once understood her maps

are undeniably just as potent as art as they are foils to their real world counterparts.

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