MoCA of the Month
MoCA of the Month New Series
We would like to announce that the GAM website is launching a new MoCA of the Month series, beginning with December 2010. The decision to widen the series reflects the need of rethinking the museum in the contemporary era. The role and the identity of the museums are rapidly changing, especially in non Euro-American countries. This aspect mostly concerns the presence of a collection but also functions and destinations. In the last months we had already started to cross narrow boundaries by juxtaposing museums with foundations and alternative spaces, which do not enter the traditional museum category. But now it is our aim to regularly present those institutions, which do not follow museums features, without nevertheless excluding examples of proper contemporary art museums. With the new MoCa of the Month series we would therefore like to map and provide an overview of emerging and alternative spaces dedicated to the creation, production, and exhibition of contemporary art.
Dear Readers, this month we would like to draw your attention to the Al-Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art in Jerusalem. Under the direction of Jack Persekian, the foundation regularly hosts exhibitions, workshops and artist-in-residency programs. Jack Persekian, curator and producer of international standing, has gained his position in the global art world with the artistic direction of the Sharjah Biennial in 2005, 2007 and 2009. p.
Al-Ma’mal1 Foundation for Contemporary Art was established in 1998. Its creation came as a development to the work that Anadiel Gallery pioneered since its establishment in 1992 by Jack Persekian. Anadiel gallery started as the first and only independent art gallery in Palestine. Timed with the beginning of the peace process, Anadiel doubled as both a permanent exhibition space for Palestinian artists and a reference point for all those who wanted to make contact with local artists. It was actually the renewed interest in the Palestinian people and their affairs, which was brought about by the extensive media coverage of the Intifada, that gave the gallery a more important role than just selling art and making money. The idea of the gallery started with a commercial underpinning as basis, but this idea came soon face to face with the dire economic reality and had to be aborted. Hence, the decision to close the gallery down or keep it running was up to important considerations, such as providing a venue and an opportunity for local artists to present their work, possibility of accessing venues, events and exhibitions abroad through contacts established by the gallery, and prospect of securing financial assistance (even though little) for art projects to happen.
It was actually the latter consideration that gradually led to launching the project of hosting foreign artists in Palestine, initiating exchange programs and residencies abroad, and securing needed financial assistance to continue the work of the gallery. Contact with the international art scene and exposure to varied ideas and experiences re-energized the young generation of artists and provided the fertile soil for jumpstarting the local art scene which came in to break the stale and stagnant art atmosphere with bold and daring new ideas that somehow shook the foundations of the dominant old-guard aesthetics. The gallery started a project of hosting Palestinian artists living in the Diaspora, some of whom had never been to Palestine. Having had secured foreign nationalities and passports, these artists were able to visit, of course as tourists. This project was financially possible by the artists’ respective governments. Mona Hatoum, Nasser Soumi, Samir Srouji, Jumana El-Husseini, and Susan Hijab were among the artists hosted. Visiting artists undertook with the local art community interesting dialogues on the issues of representation, questions of identity and modernity, and more tangible concerns of articulation and relationship to the land and the popular imagery and national iconography.
Rigo23, Back and Forth from Ramallah to Jerusalem, the artist working on his mural, Al-Ma’mal Foundation, The Jerusalem Show IV, 2010. Photo Courtesy of Valerie Grove
The artists were touched by the wind of change which cut across all aspects of life and brought about much needed reflection, revisiting predominant dogmas and setting off a new effort to break down the stereotypes and reductive categories that are so limiting to human thought and expression. Anadiel gallery was a private initiative which did not qualify for significant funding from international organizations. Yet its function was quite visible and needed, and an expansion of its capabilities and resources was imperative to propel it into a more extensive role. Hence a group of artists, architects and active individuals in the cultural scene got together and established Al-Ma’mal Foundation with the main aim to promote, instigate, disseminate and make art. They envisioned Al-Ma’mal as a catalyst for the realization of art projects with local and visiting artists, while simultaneously giving special attention to working with youth.
Mission and Founding Principals
Currently situated in the old city of Jerusalem, Al-Ma’mal’s ongoing determination to activate visual literacy has given its directors the advantageous position of facilitating the advancement of contemporary art, designing the core of the programs to meet the needs of the community, and navigate through social and political oppressions, ascertaining constructive and indispensable ties and relations, benefiting local, regional as well as international audiences. The main programs activated and led by the Al-Ma’mal Foundation are: the Artist-in-Residence, The Jerusalem Show, the Workshop Program, the Presentations & Creative Encounters Program, and the Contemporary Art Museum – Palestine (CAMP) project; Al-Ma’mal is a unique intervention within the framework of Jerusalem, never allowing itself to be oblivious of the changes or the enduring qualities of the city. The forum provided within the context of the Foundation is a conduit through which the founders strive to contribute towards the evolvement of the cultural fabric of Palestinian society. Creative industry starts with individual creativity so developing creativity, learning about the culture, engaging with it and developing both personal and national narrative is fundamental, not only to a good education but also to long-term national development. Al-Ma’mal Foundation has been aware of this reality since its establishment in Jerusalem in 1998. Since then it has provided creative programs and workshops for Palestinian youth and invited numerous local, national and international artists to work and exhibit in Jerusalem. Always engaged with its community and aware of both the harsh realities and the sublime beauties of the city, Al-Ma’mal has been a pioneer and a catalyst for making the city of Jerusalem a center for contemporary art.
Al-Ma’mal Foundation took the old city of Jerusalem as its operational base and point of departure. Given that Jerusalem is at the heart of the conflict and the Old City is the jewel in the crown, maintaining a Palestinian cultural voice there was an imperative. However, the voice of Al-Ma’mal does not only represent ‘Palestinianhood’. It mirrors the society in which it resides by reference to the important historical role of the diverse communities of Africans, Arabs, Armenians, Greeks, Copts, Assyrians and Moslems and Christians of all denominations. It also has an established international network and fully engages the world on contemporary issues with conviviality, intellect and professionalism. The presence of Al-Ma’mal defends and supports the unmatched mosaic of the city by promoting diversity of representation and discourse in the context of a dominant and politically motivated process of cultural homogenization.
Inside Al-‐Ma’mal Foundation, Inass Yassin exhibition, 2008. Photo courtesy of Issa Freij.
Art as Narrative
Tarek Atoui; UnDrum. Strategies of Survivng Noise; Performance, Al-Ma’mal Foundation. Live Projection from Amman. Jordan. The Jerusalem Show III, 2009. Photo courtesy of Rula Halawani
“The beauty of art is that each work can afford many interpretations and can carry many meanings. It can be seen as a book with many pages and each page tells another story, or sheds light on a particular perspective as one unpacks the multi-layered nuances the artwork carries. The artworks that artists produced over the years in collaboration with Al-Ma’mal Foundation safely guard a very rich history of the place as seen through the eyes and lived through the experience of the artists themselves in Palestine2”. The artworks constitute firsthand narratives and documentation of the discourses, unfolding realities, and shifting urban and rural landscapes. In order to produce and maintain a historical archive, the Foundation regularly records and collects documents and works of art which are presented in the Foundation’s space. Art becomes witness and testimony for the people. The works could be a reflective means of understanding and communicating among the local community and the outside world.
New Location: The Tile Factory
Situated in the old city of Jerusalem, the tile factory was founded as early as 1900 and, while still in operation, functioned as one of the two primary traditional tile-making factories in Palestine. With the second largest tile factory being located in Jaffa, the Jerusalem factory catered to hundreds of individuals, families and communities in Jerusalem and in the entire region of Jerusalem, reaching and serving clients in Bethlehem, Ramallah and Nablus. The tile making activity was carried out until the 1970’s, after which the building was abandoned and now lays in conditions of total disrepair. Al-Ma’mal acquired the Tile Factory building and plans are currently underway to transform and renovate the building. The Tile Factory will become the first cultural art center located in the heart of the old city of Jerusalem. It will facilitate three studios which will provide work and living spaces to visiting artists participating in Al-Ma’mal’s programs such as the Jerusalem Show and the artist-in-residence program. The Tile Factory will include a workshop space and an expansive art library, in addition to a large exhibition hall that will accommodate contemporary visual art by Palestinian and international artists, with the capacity to host hundreds of local and international audiences.
The Jerusalem Show
Uriel Barthélémi, Exhaustion triptych, performance at Padico Services, The Jerusalem Show IV 2010. Image courtesy of Thomas Dallal.
The Jerusalem Show is an annual art and culture event comprised of an exhibition showcasing works of Palestinian and international artists, film screenings, seminars, performances and workshops, held in the old city of Jerusalem for a ten day period. The Show takes the whole Old City as a context and a venue to engage with, presenting works and events that reflect on the importance of the city of Jerusalem as an artistic, cultural, political, and social urban space. The Show partners with several organizations, institutions and community centers to achieve the widest possible social engagement between the artists, their work and society.
The Artist-in-Residence Program
Andrea Faciu; Human Flags; Photoparticipatory Project; 2009
The Artist-in-Residence program provides local and visiting artists accommodation and studio facilities in Jerusalem for the development, presentation, and exchange of ideas and art projects. This program serves as a meeting place for artists, facilitating encounters and discussions that are open to the public, thus activating communication between Palestine and the world. In order to further encourage this exchange, the artists-in-residence are invited to contribute to the Al-Ma’mal Workshop program working primarily with youth and in collaboration with various community centers and clubs. Furthermore, local institutions from Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Ramallah are engaged in cooperative activities with the artist-in-residence program.
The Workshop Program
The Al-Ma’mal Workshop program was developed in 1998 with the main purpose of providing youth from Jerusalem and vicinity with the opportunity to engage in art activities, and to encourage self-expression. In addition, local artists who are called to conduct the workshops benefit of supplementary income, certainly a great value in a context that doesn’t offer financial support to artists.
The Presentations & Encounters Program
This program is comprised of exhibitions, film-screenings, artist talks, as well as local and international meeting organized at Al-Ma’mal in cooperation with local institutions.
Museum of Contemporary Art – Palestine (CAMP)
The Contemporary Art Museum – Palestine (CAMP) was launched in 1994 as part of our ongoing search for individual ways of assessing Palestinian visual culture, and as an attempt to encourage a better understanding and development of contemporary art in all its diverse manifestations and in particular to the Palestinian identity.
The Jerusalem Show III, opening at Al-‐Ma’mal Foundation. Image courtesy of Rula Halawani.
The Al-Ma’mal founders believe that “a contemporary art museum must be a flexible, living organism, an expanding space that will facilitate the realization of cultural projects, empower creative individuals and avoid stagnation. Hence we envision CAMP’s essence not as a physical place, but as a real and fluid entity where dialogue, growth and experimentation are encouraged3”. CAMP will find a temporary home at a host museum; the host museums will be invited to interact with CAMP’s presence and to initiate projects and exhibitions. In this manner, the project involves a ‘nomadic’ movement of CAMP, its cumulative art collection from place to place. To date, CAMP has accumulated 32 projects by Palestinian and non-Palestinian artists and haspartnered with the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.
Information compiled from press material provided by the institution
1 Al-Ma’mal: Arabic word meaning Workshop/Small Factory. This name was chosen because the initial home of the foundation was supposed to be in a traditional handmade floor-tiles factory founded in the old city of Jerusalem in 1900 and known by the local inhabitants as “Al-Ma’mal. It operated up to 1975 when it had to close down due to automation and the import of cheaper products. The building is falling apart and the foundation is still await funding to renovate it and move into it.
2 From Al-Ma’mal Foundation Press material
3 From Al-Ma’mal Foundation Press material
Address: New Gate, Old City, Jerusalem 91145, P.O.Box 14644, Palestine
Tel: (+972) 2 6283457
Fax: (+972) 2 6272312