Postmasters Gallery is pleased to announce “The Thousand and One Nights” – an exhibition of contemporary artists from Palestine curated by Mary Evangelista with Michael Connor.
July 7 – August 8, 2009
Opening reception Tuesday, July 7 6-8pm
“The Thousand and One Nights” brings together photographs, video, and paintings by six contemporary artists from Palestine whose work explores the political dimension of time.
In the book “The Thousand and One Nights,” a young woman named Scheherazade – who had read “various books of histories, and the lives of preceding kings, and stories of past generations” – tells a series of stories to a cruel king to delay her impending execution. The king, enraptured by her unending tales, delays her execution night after night. Through the process of listening, the king’s wrath is assuaged.
Like Scheherazade’s tales, the works in this exhibition are political, but their messages are coded and delivered with tactical patience. Several of the works explore the way that the roles of aggressor and victim shift and intermingle over long periods of time. Shadi Habib Allah’s animation “On-going Tale” depicts an age-old conflict between man and beast that continues for generations, with neither side ever emerging triumphant. Sharif Waked’s “Jericho First” draws on imagery from the 8th century of a lion attacking a gazelle, gradually transforming the image into an abstraction in which the two figures are indistinguishable from one another.
Several other works explore the slippage between time past and time present. For his “Pères” series, Taysir Batniji photographed portraits that hang in prominent positions in Gaza shops, paying respect to the patriarch of the establishment. They may well be images of living people – we aren’t told – but the men pictured in them seem to be from an indeterminate time in the past, still exerting their power on the present. In her photograph and video work ‘Familiar,’ artist Jumana Manna (an adult in her early twenties) is breastfed by her mother, an apparent attempt to reverse the flow of time and return to an earlier stage of life.
“The Thousand and One Nights” was embraced by Europeans in the 17th and 18th century as the symbol of ‘the Orient’, the fantasy of a golden land to the East. This land was portrayed as exotic and faraway, but it was actually closely connected to the West in many ways. It was also not a single land, but many lands and people, a cultural landscape far more varied and complex than any one symbol could convey. Instead of encouraging an exchange between cultures, “The Thousand and One Nights” only created misconceptions and reinforced imagined barriers between West and East. This exhibition takes on this title in hopes of avoiding a similar fate.
Postmasters gallery located at 459 west 19th street between 9 and 10 Avenues is open Tuesdays through Saturdays 11-6 pm. Please contact Magdalena Sawon or Paulina Bebecka with questions and image requests.