Sunday 29 March 2015

CULTURETAS: Personal Approach about Past Disquiet

Photos via Culturetas.

To believe or not in the twists of life and their connection with the shape of a somehow irreversible destiny is a more personal than contextual decision. I’ve always believed that things happen for a certain planning that takes place in other states of consciousness, but to avoid boring you to death and getting into holistic material I’d better start the story that matters here.

Working as an intern in the Contemporary Art Museum in Barcelona (MACBA) I was confined to a neutral desk near the meeting room where I studied a few exhibitions that the Museum was planning. I used to print and help with anything they could need. On a common day, a special meeting took place with two curators and a writer; the subject was an exhibition that was planned to open next year inside one of MACBA’s spaces. Those who where supposed to be in the reunion started arriving little by little: directors, hipster girls with cool glasses and Moleskines notebooks, the occasional Art Historian (that got graduated 40 years ago) and Beatriz Preciado. Finally a character, that would latter on change my life, appeared in the room: an exhausted, tall, white woman, with curly deep black hair tied in an improvised and small ponytail, a pair of rather light pants for the season and brown leather boots; she was holding in her hands a box of sweets that only us who have spent months of our childhood in Damascus know where they come from and have its smell embedded somewhere in our brain where the purest happiness lies.

From then on I couldn’t stop staring the common table with the most childish gaze. The discussion related a ghost exhibition called International Art Exhibition for Palestine in 1978 that was being recovered from archive material and whose model was the Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende, an artistic project of support with the politician’s work during the social uprising years in Santiago de Chile. People say that there are no casualties: I, myself was working on that museum during my first internship as a graduate from La Universidad de Los Andes (Venezuela) and my family had hold the Palestinian fight in their heart during my childhood. Starting from that moment I adopted a meerkat position in my chair and I’m more than sure that the group was very uncomfortable with my presence. When they decided to take a cigarette break I ran desperately behind them. I had no idea what to say but I was decided to tell them that I had worked in that museum.

When I finally found the words to talk to them I said in a nervous English whatever it came to mind and the smile of (who now I knew was called) Rasha Salti, made me feel like home. Her project was thrilling: the art exhibition in support of the Palestinian Movement was born in Beirut and suggested an speculative history of the politically engaged artistic practices, in the middle of a international anti – imperialist solidarity movement. Organized by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in conjunction with an incredibly connected network of artists and activists whose goal was to create, in the future, a museum in solidarity with the Palestinians in exile, destined to travel constantly around the world to finally settle back in a free Palestine and that consisted in 200 works of 200 artists from 30 different countries. But in 1982 the Israeli army advanced over Beirut and militarily took the city to force the PLO to abandon the territory. The building where the works had been kept and shown, was bombed to the ground. All that was left of the exhibition where the memories of those that made it happen and those who visited it. 

The melancholy that hosts the oblivion seems to be, once again, the driving force of identity and the mission that would join two Arab women settled in USA (Rasha Salti and Kristine Khouri) under the firm conviction of recovering a fundamental milestone in the art history of the 20th Century, through the daunting task of restructuring a reality from the ephemeral character of the memory. MACBA’s board couldn’t do anything but open their institution to exhibit the product of such research, an investigation that had consumed the last 4 years of their life, between endless journeys, interviews, rejections and warm welcomes from the people that had been expecting them for the past 30 years. 


Between the inner poetry that has always sheltered the diasporic Arab and the urge to scream to the world the reality of the Palestinian people, Past Disquiet is born. A new format for the art history monography that pretends not only to rescue a reality but also to formulate it in simultaneity with many other international events that used to dispute the rejection, the oblivion and the aggression to the claiming politics which so many of us can identify with. In a convulse world and in plain rejection to the Muslim community its not but proper the manifestation of a new perspective on the Arab world and its plurality, a forgotten characteristic in the international and historical politics.

I have nothing left to say but to invite you all to enjoy this exhibition that is still open in the upper show room of the Contemporary Art Museum in Barcelona. An experience that promises to open your eyes to a forgotten past that needs to be reconsidered.            

Curators of the exhibition: Rasha Salti and Kristine Khouri


This article was originally published (in Spanish) in Culturetas, culture with boobs, a great website situated at the intersection of culture and femininity. Culturetas are our new contributors and we are delighted to have them. Have a look and say hello to them!


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