|Ph.D Student||Carmon-Popper Irit|
|Subject||Art as Preservation: Interventions in Sites-in-Conflict,|
|Department||Department of Architecture and Town Planning||Supervisor||Professor Alona Nitzan-Shiftan|
|Full Thesis text|
The research explores Israeli artists, both Jewish and Palestinian, who have intervened in preserving the physical remains and suppressed narratives of depopulated Palestinian sites. The residents of these villages and urban quarters were deported by the military forces of the Jewish population during the post-partition war of 1948. The war that culminated in the declaration of the State of Israel and the Nakba (catastrophe) of the Palestinians, transformed the physical and human landscape of Mandate Palestine. During and after the war Israeli officials wished to ruin the Palestinian sites in order to prevent the return of their inhabitants. Various artists, however, used the materiality of these evacuated architectural environments and ruins as a platform for interventions, for promoting the preservation of the Palestinian vernacular and for evoking its suppressed meanings.
Scholars of the intractable Arab-Israeli conflict have studied these sites through the lenses of geography, anthropology, political science and art history. This study offers an alternative approach by shifting the conceptual lens onto some reciprocal insights in the fields of contemporary art and architectural preservation. On the one hand, the study draws on art theory that has been informed, since the 1990s, by socially-led and participatory practices. On the other hand, it responds to recent changes in conservation charters and treaties emphasizing the role of local communities and of creative agents acting outside traditional institutions. This mutual theoretical turn toward local, communal and collective values, inspires my retrospective analysis of the relationship between artistic work and the preservation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage.
Operating within this shared intellectual climate, I reexamine artists’ interventions at three Palestinian sites, during three intervals that span Israel’s history. I particularly focus on the ways in which artists activated spatial and collective practices in order to understand the substantive and conceptual contribution of these artists to the preservation of Palestinian heritage. I argue that by turning to the modus operandi of art practices, the creative agents in all three cases - despite major differences in their biographies and artistic inclinations - have managed to fathom the multilayered history of their very different sites, and offer an alternative mode of preservation and commemoration. I interpret their art interventions as acts of preservation, and argue that because art is not bound by the rigid protocol of architectural preservation, it is able to identify fissures in the official practice through which critical voices can emerge. Preservation, in this light, becomes a civic act.