Post-colonialism? is an eclectic artistic inquiry into local and global legacies of historical imperialism and specific modern and contemporary colonial practices.
19 artists (10 local, 9 international) explore ideological, socio-political, cultural and environmental issues within Israel. Collectively these are dispatches of rage, disgrace and compassion. They evoke anxious dialogues of hope, fear, horror and resistance. Many of the works engage in forms of artistic and intellectual resistance via the creation of counter narratives, strategies of subversion, mimicry, pastiche, parody and hybridity.
But, the ‘post’ in post-colonialism has not arrived – as evidenced in the works on exhibition which are primarily engaged with aspects of contemporary colonisation.
Post-colonialism? maps volatile constellations of land, occupation, borders and check-points; maimed, moulded and manipulated bodies; fugitive vessels; transnational flows of capital and commodities and diasporic itinerancies. These constellations are at times graceful, sometimes awkward. Some are poetic, others are embodiments of pain. Most of the works are anti-monuments that subjectively mine aspects of this subject. Works are linked by a generosity of spirit and the necessity to speak out.
Over a period of about 30 months this exhibition was conceived, confirmed and produced. Members of the Benyamini administrative team and I negotiated the project in person and via regular digital meetings through the recent upsurge in violence as the possibility of a third Intifada reared its ugly head. In retrospect, it is both ironic and prophetic that all the preliminary formal meetings were held in cities with interesting colonial histories – Taipei, Dublin and Kansas City.
Our open call for participants in February 2015 resulted in 85 applications. Local and international artists were encouraged to question the current situation in Israel and develop original, personal works that responded to the central question, ‘What is the significance of post-colonialism in contemporary Israel, and beyond?’ A selection committee of representatives from the Benyamini Contemporary Ceramics Centre and I chose the finalists. Criteria for selection included pertinence of proposed project and the possibility to execute it in the requisite time (particularly in respect to the international artists in residence). We also endeavoured to obtain a broadly representative geographic spread, with artists from the region, Africa, the Americas, Europe, East and South East Asia. The international artists were hosted by a variety of Academies and other art institutions.
As the project evolved, the title was changed from the plural ‘Post-colonialisms’ to the singular, for reasons of translation into Arabic and Hebrew. Two artists withdrew and were replaced. All international participants faced a series of difficult questions and dialogues about contravening the international cultural boycott. The international artists and I chose to come to Israel to obtain first-hand insights and experiences, and make informed decisions. The experience of living, working and travelling in Israel has confirmed our resolution to respectfully speak out.