Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Student Reaction to Gilane Tawadros' Lecture

Reaction to Gilane Tawadros':
 Women and Creativity Lecture on November 26th

Piece by Katey-Ann Hurley

I have to say I feel extremely lucky and privileged to have been able to sit
in the talk with Gilane Tawadros. It was certainly my favorite talk that we’ve had so far
and I was so happy to be given the opportunity to gain insight from such an intelligent
woman in the arts. The pieces that she showed us were all beautiful in their own way, and
they tied together in such a subtle manner that I was astounded by how they resonated
within all of us. I especially loved the pieces by the artist Shen Yuan as well as her words
regarding her own pieces. The topics we discussed: discourse, boundaries, the
complexities of speech, and being a prisoner of your own language intrigued and inspired
me. These are paradoxes that I often mull over in my own bewilderment and it was
relieving to finally be able to put reflections into words and bounce my thoughts off of
Gilane as well as my peers. It goes without saying that the pieces of art that she shared
connected so powerfully within all of us. I was captivated by each and every work, and
furthermore enthralled by what Gilane had to say about her interpretations of the pieces.
It made me think about things in numerous different ways all at once and also reflect on
my own experiences with some of the issues represented within the works. Gilane
Tawadros’ presentation opened my mind to many new ideas, and I am grateful for the

Piece by Kara Hushon

"We buy things we don't need, with money we don't have, to impress people we don't like"
I loved this quote that Gilane Tawadros showed us. It was painted on a sign outside of Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany, which had some of the world's wealthiest art connoisseurs attending. In my opinion, this is everything that is wrong with our society. But then we realize that it isn't just a problem with Americans since this idea was displayed in Germany as well. To me, this displays the ideas of not really thinking for yourself and simply keeping in line with social norms and what is expected of you. Just like in class, someone asked Gilane what one of the paintings was supposed to mean or represent and she responded with something like, "I don't know, I'm in the same boat as you, what do you think it means?" That was a tough concept for us to grasp because we are so used to being told what each and every thing means and what is right or wrong. I often find myself thinking one thing about a piece and then someone else says that they think something completely different so I automatically assume that I am wrong. Which always makes it hard to voice my thoughts about works of art. Like with many of the works that Gilane shows us, not once was my first thought about the things she mentioned, like language and it's barriers, which I found very interesting. As someone who is trying to become fluent in Spanish, I often think about language and the words that get lost in translation, like she spoke about. I have always been interested in how people learn languages. You can go from attempting to speak causally in Spanish class to their entire brain switching over to Spanish during an exam back to forgetting everything while trying to speak for an oral portion of an exam then to almost impeccable Spanish when needed in an emergency. I was always intrigued by this transition and the words that are simply untranslatable. The more I think about it the more I realize how similar that is to art. It's like seeing the perfect piece of work in your head but then you just can't get the concrete product right, the feelings you felt about the work are simply not portrayed to the viewers or when you just can't describe why you are doing a piece. Mastering both language and art is time consuming, tedious and requires dedication.

Piece by Elena J. Georgopoulos

Gilane was quite interesting. She speaks exactly how one would expect someone constantly surrounded by art would speak-poised, formal, receptive to new interpretations but fully organized and coherent when speaking her own. It was quite enjoyable to listen to her, and the pieces she showed us were great.
I think the word “occupy” has come to mean so much lately. Occupy obviously brings up the “Occupy Wallstreet” protests, and others like it from around the world. In relation to art, occupying space has always seemed to be an innate concept of it. All art occupies some sort of space: a painting takes place of a blank canvas, a sculpture the place of unrefined materials, a blanks piece of paper fills with words and a story forms. Occupying leads to creation, because by something new being in a previously un-occupied space, it is a creation (or sorts).
It was really impressive to see and talk about artists that push the limits of what it meant to occupy space, from comparing language gaps to class gaps, both of which create large (figurative) spaces. Filling in physical space to represent filling in figurative space? And/or calling attention to it? Brilliant.
It makes me think a lot about how I occupy space, and how I want to occupy it.  I think about it in a physical sense- am I happier living in a minimalist style, or a cluttered one? Then in the abstract sense-how many lives do I want to be a part of? What do I want to make of my abilities? There is just so much to think about, so much space to fill. Or, so much space that needs to be emptied. I have not decided which is the answer yet.

Piece by Cristina Porzio

I found her presentation to be very interesting. I was surprised to discover the true meaning behind the art she showed us. Part of what made it so interesting was discovering what the artist was truly trying to represent. The ideas that she talked about, such as, art being able to express things that words cannot or time and the viewer being an important component of the piece, were really interesting to me. 
When she said that art is able to express things that words can’t, I suddenly thought about the proverb “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Wouldn’t this count for art too, or more specifically the pictures of art pieces she was showing us during the presentation? Maybe art can express more then what words can, because it metaphorically consists of more words. Also (if my notes are correct), Tawadros says that words can’t translate experiences. I disagree. Words can carry specific emotions that as a result have the potential to give a precise translation of the experiences. 
This type of strong emotion cannot always be incorporated in the art and that leaves it to interpretation. For example, the crack in the ground. Without having the words to explain its meaning, its true significant was left to the interpretation of viewer, which I am sure would have not been able to make the right guess at its emotional and powerful significance.

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.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Student Paper #2 Reflecting on Ariane Littman's Work "Wounded Land"

Geetika Baghel

Professor Shandler

History of Jewish Art


Ariane Littman and the Wounded Land

What is a border and how is it significant? Can borders be erased, changed, or crossed?

Does crossing a border eradicate it or draw attention to its existence?

Borders are spaces where center conditions cease to exist. Yet they highlight the conflicts

of center conditions based on which side a person exists relative to a border and present a

challenge to cultural identity. Borders impose an isolating role upon the individual, both defining

and deconstructing ones sense of self. Through her work with cartographic maps, Ariane Littman

explores the sociopolitical and constitutional significance of these ideas in relation to the Holy

Land of Jerusalem. She presents to the audience a new, almost spiritual realm that exists beyond

the physical reality of her land in an attempt to convey a profoundly personal level of suffering

and a desire to heal her home from within.

Inspired by the long-term oppression and violence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict upon

its citizens, Ariane Littman deconstructs the power of borderlines by presenting an alternate,

utopian reality where many of these borders are dissolved. The dissolution of these borders

is particularly apparent in her project, The Shredded Land. Using West Bank and Jerusalem

Closure maps from 2004, Littman shredded and recreated the maps based on rules she devised.

Every arrangement is intentional, and there is a “slow breaking up of lines, of borders, of Israeli

settlements and of Palestinian neighborhoods” (Littman, Shredded Land). The dissolution is

indeed “slow,” as the assimilation of fabricated rules is particularly significant in symbolizing

Littman’s gradual despair over Jerusalem’s internal turmoil as well as the dim embers of

hope that exist for the land’s citizens to someday overcome the oppression they face under

sociopolitical regulations.

Littman addresses the pivotal nature of gender—particularly the role of women—

in preservation of heritage. This idea is fundamentally depicted in Erasure 2006. Here we see

Littman sitting in a minimalist setting with a 1947 Map of Palestine projected upon her body and

the ground around her. A woman in the corner prepares small balls of dough and throws them

towards Littman, a gesture reminiscent of the domestic tradition of bread-making in Um El

Fahm (a neighborhood that has disappeared since 1955). Littman uses the balls of dough as

erasers, frantically trying to erase the borders of the projected map but to no avail. As the

performance continues, the gesture of erasing transcends physical attempts at ridding the

boundaries and instead delves into a psychological dimension of selective preservation. Why

selective? The specific map Littman used serves to illustrate the shifting borderlines of Israel that

simultaneously create and eradicate traditions by creating and destroying neighborhoods.

Littman’s action itself, enacted by a woman in a domestic setting, serves to exhume traditions,

forgotten memories and feminine gestures; while her incentive is an attempt to erase memories

of pain and trauma caused by the ever-shifting borders of Jerusalem.

The importance of the female in Israel continues in Littman’s project The Wounded

Land, transforming her role from one of preservation into one of healing. Inspired by her own

daughter’s injury, Littman began bandaging and sewing shredded Closure Maps in an effort to

symbolically heal all who have suffered from Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. In the exhibition at the

Mabel Smith Library, one can observe a skirt “levitating” in the center of the display, surrounded

by sheets of cloth covered in white texture. A closer look at these white panels reveals that they

are actually bandages and plaster pasted over cut-outs of maps. One can recognize names such

as “Jerusalem” or “Israel” beneath the plaster. More importantly, the sheets of plastered maps

have a stitched border of green around them. The setup of these maps surrounding the skirt in the

exhibition brings up an interesting idea: the power of the female in “stitching together” cultures

that have been physically isolated. After all, Littman records a performance of herself stitching

these plastered maps in Jerusalem. Her performance is in a way a silent cri de Coeur to the

women who watch her stitch—centralizing their potential to stand against oppression and to heal

the Holy Land that has been wounded by internal isolation.

One final yet very intriguing aspect of Ariane Littman’s work is an exploration of

death and rebirth. The very act of bandaging maps that stems from a desire to heal indirectly

acknowledges the death of a part of something that had once been alive. It forfeits the entity

to a sort of physical and psychological necrosis. In her performance Surgical Operation 2004,

Littman illustrates female nurses carrying and healing shredded maps of Jerusalem at a military

hospital. The maps serve as a metaphorical representation of the “incurable pathological

violence” (Littman, Surgical Operation) that has plagued the people of her land. The auditory

backdrop of this performance is of violent clamor and news broadcasts reporting attacks on

Jerusalem. Thus, despite the nurses’ frantic efforts at healing, the violence continues and patients

further suffer. The combination of the performance with the ambiance elicits a feeling of futility,

making the overall condition of Jerusalem appear “incurable” and highlighting the notion of

death amongst the audience.

This message is tragically continued in Ariane Littman’s performance of Sea of Death.

Carried out near Qumran, a site where life, death, and healing coexist, the artist had herself

wrapped in bandages and sent adrift from the northern shore of the Dead Sea. Hauntingly

profound, the viewer sees Littman transform into a corpse that metaphorically parallels the

gradual death of the Sea, which is being exhausted by industrialization. Her message is clear: the

tragedy of vulnerability, the pain of memory, and a retreat into a sense of futility are ingrained

within Jerusalem’s culture. From the waters her body communicates to the audience, asking

whether anybody can truly tolerate the feeling of lost hope, all while calling out to be saved from

drifting away unnoticed. Her physical proximity to sacred sites within and without Jerusalem

is particularly moving as it transcends the dimensions of reality into a pang of psychological

conflict experienced by the viewer. Overall, Littman illustrates the sense of futility felt by many

citizens of Jerusalem in their current predicament.

Yet one cannot ignore Littman’s choice of media in her work. Everything she

incorporates is intentional and meaningful. In the above example, Littman’s choice of location

and time of filming are particularly important. The time of sunset is in-between day and night.

The time itself translates into the in-between state of the people of Jerusalem. What Littman

clearly conveys through her art is the present relative to the past—she merely alludes to the

future by incorporating in-between aspects such as sunsets, healing, invisible borders, and so

forth. In her lecture, Littman mentioned how she uses art as a vehicle to communicate the present

to her people. The message being communicated is left to the inherent ability of the audience

to understand. By this token, while many of Littman’s works can be seen from a tragic and

futile perspective, they can also be perceived as beacons of hope. If, by chance, she successfully

conveys her desires to an audience by highlighting their present state, she can use her art to

inspire strength within the people of Jerusalem. Essentially, there is as much potential for hope in

her artwork—as observed by the healing of her maps—as there is for futility.

Ariane Littman uses the idea of deconstruction to fabricate a new, utopian reality

for Jerusalem. Her work addresses the internal and psychological turmoil of the land due to

sociopolitical conflicts that are strengthened by the presence of borders. Through inspiring

performances within and without her studio, Littman illustrates to the audience a simultaneous

feeling of futility and a call to action in identifying the self internally and relative to one’s

surroundings. Together, these intentions propel one to find his or her identity through the defeat

of borders.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Student Reactions to Fertile Crescent Exhibition Work

Both students participated through Professor Paul Blaney's Creative Non Fiction Writing Class at Rutgers University

In response to Laila Shawa’s Disposable Bodies

By Elizabeth Kearns 

Walking around the exhibit, most of the artwork directly interacts with the audience. As I turn into one room I see two female bodies and although they are quieter pieces of work, they speak loudly. My eyes look past the fact that the bodies are headless, armless and legless. Instead I am fixated on the weapons. I focus on the one body; it has a simple yet elegant floral pattern that is enclosed by chains.

The top of her body is very bare, only patterned in floral. Her lower half is covered in black chains and a bright red grenade hangs near her crotch. From her back you see a small bright red heart lock with all the numbers turned to zero, or are they eyes? The longer I am with the piece the more my discomfort thickens. At first I imagine that this woman is trapped due to her gender. The piercing red symbolizes energy and desire that she holds within her heart. It does not matter that the woman has no arms or legs because she will always be powerless. She has no head because a woman may not think. For now I see the heart as a symbol of her unlocking her own desires. To unlock her heart would mean freedom, but when the chain is free, the grenade will explode. This grenade is society and her family. Would they ever approve of her true self?

After reading the text, the body takes on a new meaning. I still feel the sense of the chains weighing down on her. The grenade is strategically placed near her gentile and hides her gender. She is no longer a woman, but a suicide bomber. The numbers on the small heart are in fact eyes that are watching her. The pressure to make her country proud overpowers her true heart. I consider how the chains are small and flimsy. Although this woman could easily break them and stop her suicide, she does not, because of this power. No longer is she a woman. She has for once become the dominant role in her society. In these few moments before taking her own life, she has moved beyond her role of beauty (floral prints) and beyond her sexuality (and main reason as a woman). She feels powerful, but it is that power that traps her.

In response to Ebru Özseçen's Jawbreaker

"I love Exotic Women"
 By Amanda Pickens

The woman before me fervently rubs the round white ball between her lips and savors the sharp sweetness of its surface. It glistens with hedonism and saliva. Her olive shoulders are naked save for a curtain of long brown hair. She fixes her gaze upon me and fastens me to the floor. Part of me wants to leave but her eyes exude this perfect mixture of directness and manipulation that makes me stay. I’ve become a willing prisoner of her world.

I see the hungry faces of men and women slowly appear from the dark corners of the room. Their eyes roam my body; they lick their lips, and whisper into empty space between us. “What are you?” Their voices are flooded with curiosity. It’s just an innocent question, right? It’s just an innocuous touch. Awe-struck eyes and slow-moving hands reach out to touch my hair. “I love exotic women,” they say with too much enthusiasm. I flinch at their touch and feel 20 years’ worth of anger swelling in my stomach. “Why are you angry?” they say, “it was just a compliment.”

Her lips press against the milky ball like a vacuum and slowly strip off layers of candy. She pauses and pops the entire ball into her mouth making hugging motions with her lips. Squeeze and release. Squeeze and release. You are tired of being treated like “exotic” playthings. You are not their canvases. You do not owe them explanations, favors, or lessons. I say these things with my eyes and send a knowing smile her way. She returns a quick smile of understanding and sadness before squeezing the milky white ball with her lips.