This is the third in a series of profiles of past projects by artists featured in the Palestine c/o Venice Pavilion. – ed.
Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti are perhaps best known for their installation at the 2003 Venice Biennale, “Stateless Nation.” For this work, the collaborative duo installed a number of large-scale passports – taller than a human – throughout the Giardini, interspersed among the pavilions of different states. While passports were issued by different authorities, the bearer’s place of birth was always listed as Palestine. The project reflected the wider political context of the Biennale, in which participating nations each organize their own pavilion. Director Francesco Bonami had hoped to include a Palestinian Pavilion in the Biennale, but exhibition regulations prohibit the inclusion of nations not recognized by Rome, and his plans were scuppered amid controversy.
Hilal and Petti’s project explored the possibility of a pavilion that was not a physical space, but one that represented this stateless condition:
10 different large travel documents and passports, traces of the absence of a state and belonging to Palestinian women and men, occupy, in a dispersed fashion, the spaces between the national pavilions. Each Palestinian is by definition “without a state”, even if he/she possesses some form of citizenship within the nation in which he/she currently resides, but to which he/she does not belong.
Their other works include the architectural research project, co-directed with theorist Eyal Weizman, “Decolonizing Architecture“. This project combines week-long research residencies, essays and a team of artist collaborators, all hoping to understand how “evacuated colonial architecture could be discerned: destruction, re-occupation, and subversion.”
For the 2009 Biennial, the team presents “Ramallah Syndrome”, a sound installation that plays conversations exploring how the city of Ramallah behaves and defines itself as a “city of normalcy” in spite of the occupation and its distortions and discretion into the everyday life of the its residents. “The installation is the result of a series of informal discussions that attempted to reflexively explore and articulate the contemporary and particular spatialization of powers(s) and its ensuing constrictions in their city – a paradoxical arrangement and design that we are calling the ‘Ramallah Syndrome’.”
Hilal and Petti’s work is heavily engaged in not just a resolution of the conflict and fulfillment of Palestinian claims, but understanding how architecture can be used as a tactical tool within the unfolding struggle for Palestine.
-Posted by Lauren Pearson