EI: Palestine portrayed as plastic state in new art show

The title I Exist (in some way) — an exhibition in Liverpool — came from Syrian photographer Issa Touma, who has also said “they cannot cancel me, so they need to accept me.” Looking at the images in this show, however, one can’t help feeling that it is a record of constraints — and, admittedly, of attempts to overcome them — rather than of freedom.

To illustrate: one of the most celebrated artists in the show is the Palestinian Larissa Sansour. Her contributions come from the Nation Estate series of works, which conceive of a futuristic Palestinian state existing not in historical Palestine, or even in the West Bank and Gaza, but confined to a high-rise building.

One image shows her sitting in the sterile lobby of this imaginary edifice, a directory of the building lists the floors: “-1. Dead Sea; 0. Main Lobby; 1. Souq; 2. Permits and Passports; 3. Heritage Museum; 4. Jerusalem.” The remaining ten floors represent the main cities of the West Bank and Gaza. It is striking that one has to pass through shops, bureaucracies and tidily-assembled “heritage” in a museum before being able to reach the real spaces in which people live and work.

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