Monday, May 11, 2009

UndoConstructs: Where We Come From description by Lori Waxman

(Linked from 'In Emily Jacir's series "Where We Come From" (2002-2003), everything is quotidian. Her amateurish photos have a snapshot quality that wouldn't look out of place in most family albums. And the people, places and things captured by her digital camera are so commonplace they would hardly even bear inclusion in such albums: a girl and boy playing street soccer, someone wandering around the city, the paying of a bill, a family visit, a couple on a dinner date. Typical human moments experienced without much thought, as part of daily routines, around the world.

Except by Palestinians. Because being Palestinian can mean not being able to engage in actions most people take for granted. It can mean not being able to leave the Gaza Strip to buy a favourite liqueur or to enter Haifa just to hang out, or to travel from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to put flowers on a mother's grave. Living in the Gaza City with a Palestinian passport or in New York with a Lebanese passport or in Riyadh with a Jordanian passport can render even the most banal needs impossible.

It is these chores that Jacir fulfills, acting as a surrogate for Abier, Hana, Johnny, Fayez and dozens of other Palestinians for whom such everyday activities have been elevated by forces out of their control to the status of unrealizable desire. To them and a far-flung network of Palestinians across the globe, Jacir, a Palestinian artist armed with an American passport, posed the question: "If I could do something for you anywhere in Palestine, what would it be?"

She answered their simple requests by carrying them out. The photographs described above are her proofs of accomplishment. She hangs this photographic evidence alongside text panels that detail, in English and Arabic, the request in the recipient's own words as well as his or her name, birthplace, current residence, nationality (according to passport) and parents' birthplaces.'

Source: Lori Waxman, "Picturing Failure", Parachute 115, 2004.

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