I’ve been following Nihilsentimentalgia for the past six years or so. I visit the blog every two or three months and read an entry or two. It’s an open but stable relationship. It seemed that every time I read the blog there are texts exactly matching the issues I currently grapple with, like a creepy cosmic artistic intellectual coincidence or something. When I worked on Anne Bonny & Mary Read, a clowning performance about two women pirates inspired by actions of civil resistance, I bumped into The Protester photograph series. While developing Exodus – a project that originated in my research of mechanisms of oppression of indigenous societies – there was an inspiring wave of texts revolving around authenticity. After watching The Artist is Present I was encouraged to read someone else who was articulating my exact thoughts. Every time I felt, wow, how wonderful is the Internet!
Nihilsentimentalgia was also the first blog I dared to read in English. Little things that mean a lot to some.
For the blog’s tenth anniversary I wanted to write about a single picture that has haunted me for months. I can’t seem to forget it and whenever I think of it or see it again, I am overcome by the same painful feelings. I thought of writing about how one image can carry such a powerful effect, when I finally sat down to write, on September 22nd, and checked the blog again to see what’s new. The headline of the last entry from September 13th was “I’m haunted by images”. Again a weird synchronicity, shit.
My “visual demon” depicts violence, but not extra-shocking.
And this is precisely what alarms me – how casual this violence has become. An arrest of a Palestinian boy by Israeli soldiers is nothing new. Especially not in the Palestinian town of Hebron, where this picture was taken. But just as the aggression held in the soldiers’ bodies can work unseen, the body posture of the boy is like that of a saint, blind as a prophet – an image of mythical dimensions. The beauty of the image captivated me, while I resist its magnitude for fear of de-politicizing it. I was trying to read the expression of the few soldiers whose faces are exposed but couldn’t decide on a single collective attitude. The color of their uniforms dominates the frame and doesn’t leave room for much else. Just this boy, with his half open mouth. This image haunts me. Me – an Israeli allowed to glance at a blindfolded Palestinian boy.
Around 2009, during my second year at a Jerusalem art school, I went to Hebron with a camera every week. I took an Israeli bus that crosses all the checkpoints unhampered and takes you right to the heart of Hebron. I was naive, I said that I just want to have a look around, see what’s going on. The camera was an excuse for my presence and a way of not getting involved. Although I am now critical of such a standpoint, I still think it was better than nothing and an honest attempt to observe what is beyond the usual narrative that I’d been hearing.
In December 2017, Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In many ways I felt that this declaration doesn’t change much. Jerusalem is already Israel’s capital de facto – the Palestinian parts are annexed and operate under Israeli jurisdiction (not that its Palestinian residents are entitled to the same rights as Israelis, though). But that kind of statement, though, does have implications on reality. Protests broke out all over the West Bank, Hebron included. They were violently suppressed by the Israeli forces, and at such a protest this boy was arrested and this picture was taken.
Trump’s statement meant a total affirmation of the Israeli narrative over the territory and denial of the Palestinian one. A huge gap separates Trump’s words – a speech delivered in an empty language of utopian promises – and the reality that this image shows. In Correspondence #1 on the Importance of Time and Place, the Territory, a recent work I developed with Catalan dramaturge Marc Villanueva Mir, we were particularly interested in the performance that such statements embody. With each of us reflecting on his/her own perspective and social context, we made an attempt to find our own performative strategies to deal with the situation(s). One of the attempts was deconstructing Trump’s speech of recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and assembling it into a new narrative. I was quite depressed by the occurrences at the time and am not much more optimistic now. Frankly speaking, I doubt my own methods of working in arts and the means of representation in theater/performance in particular. Yet, as a concluding note, here’s my sci-fi take on Trump
More of Li’s work @ www.lilorian.com