Background - intimate terrains

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The representation of the landscape has a long history in Palestine and was an integral part of cultural practices, it could be found in wall paintings, textiles, ceramics, tilework pottery, stonework, popular folktales, place names, superstitions and sayings as nature and the landscape were part of the vernacular. Representations of landscape did not conform to dominant European conventions of perspective concerned with representing views and vistas, directed at a single individual in a surveying vantage point, but rather often evoked rhythms and patterns in nature such as in textile, embroidery, pottery and tilework. Palestinian women’s costumes for example, had intricate and elaborate references to nature in its patterns, and each village and region had its own distinctive evolving styles, while tilework and ceramics drew inspiration from flora and fauna. Popular cultur was full of folktales and superstitions related to spirits that inhabited the landscape and their powers. The landscape was not perceived as inanimate, the natural environment was believed to be inhabited by good and evil spirits who dwelled in water, around trees and ruins, and who sometimes could be heard or who appeared as animals or human beings. Villagers used the landscape as their main term of reference in many aspects of their practice of daily life.

Easel painting was another mode of representation, the nineteenth-century paintings of the landscape by Palestinian artists were strongly influenced by European traditions and in particular representations of the Holy Land. However, Palestinian artists’ whose works remain today from the nineteenth century and early 20th century reveal that they were imbued with local perspectives and their knowledge of place, unlike foreign visitors whose representations were heavily influenced by their ideological and political predispositions.

Palestine has a long history of being the ambition of others, who have desired to conquer and refashion it. This is evident in both the transformation of the physical landscape and the representation of it in painting, photography, literature, political and religious  iscourses. The image of Palestine as the Holy Land was therefore extensively cultivated in the collective imagination of Europe through various forms of cultural production. This ongoing cultural production was closely tied to political and colonial strategies and was an integral part of Zionist ambitions for Palestine. The question of land and the representation of landscape has been at the centre of the colonisation of Palestine for centuries. Since its creation, the Israeli state has been engaged in carving out the physical landscape, transforming it through massive settlement projects, confiscation of land, and the destruction of historical sites, all of which have been accompanied by a demographic war of depopulation and expulsion and segregation of the Palestinians from each other.

In 2001, Israel began the construction of the Separation Wall, which has been accompanied by hundreds of policed checkpoints that separate Palestinian cities, towns, and villages and dissect the territories into a series of non-contiguous cantons. It is in this highly charged context that this exhibition takes its point of departure to explore how landscape has been represented by
Palestinian artists across the decades.

Motherlands and Dreamscapes
Elusive Viewpoints
Traces of Memories
Archaeology of Place
Distance and All That Remains
The Unrecognizable Landscape
The Glass Gallery