Staging an exhibition that aims to encapsulate a particular nationality or sense of national identity is always problematic – even when the country in question isn’t being occupied by another.
With exhaustive representation impossible, the curators’ selection of the artists will likely be questioned and criticized.
In “Bridge to Palestine,” the group show now up at the Beirut Exhibition Center, curator Mark Hachem has chosen to showcase work by 18 artists of Palestinian origin, some living in exile, others in Palestine. Billed as “a cultural dialogue between generations of artists and geographic locations,” the show includes such traditional media as paintings, photography and embroidery, as well as installation and video art.
One of the more interesting installation pieces on show in “Bridge to Palestine” is Nasser Soumi’s “Icon to Jafa.” Deployed in its own white cube-style space, the installation features 30 wooden boxes, each containing a handwritten letter, penned by someone who was born in Jaffa, as well as a small glass bottle filled with local seawater, and strips of dried orange peel cut into wave shapes and affixed to an indigo backdrop.
Beside each box is a simple white candle, and below them are a series of troughs filled with water dyed blue with the indigo pigment for which the city was once famous.
A moving tribute not only to the changing face of Palestine since 1948, but to the irrevocable changes wrought by modernization, the installation merits a lengthy perusal.