Thursday, August 30, 2007

Wall as Narrator

Sorry for the infrequent posting these days, just extremely busy right now but will have some exciting announcements in the coming days. In the meantime there is an exhibition showing right now at the Form + Content Gallery in Minneapolis that I wouldn’t mind checking out if by some random fortune I found myself bumbling around the streets over there any time soon. It is unlikely, in fact - it won't happen, but I will pass it on here nonetheless in case any of you readers out there do happen to find yourself bumbling around over there with nothing to do one day and find yourself overcome by some need to ponder the meaning of walls, as we like to try and do here on Subtopes.


“Dialogue on the Wall” is a project that’s been produced by architect Jay Isenberg who wanted to explore the separate yet intermingled narratives of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as told through the architectural dimensions of walls. Excellent.

From this magazine in St. Paul who spoke with Isenberg:

The idea of a wall as something other than a barrier springs from what Isenberg calls the “collision of two iconic architectures,” namely the separation wall between Israel and Palestine and the Western Wall in Jerusalem. “As an architect, the separation wall is a powerful and physical metaphor for so many issues of this conflict,” says Isenberg. “It serves as a visceral reminder of the power of ‘architecture’ to affect people’s lives.”

Here is the official Project Description:

Dialogue on the Wall, an architectural installation that incorporates multi-media and performance elements, explores the issues and competing narratives of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The centerpiece of the installation is a 10 foot high concrete-like wall built inside the gallery. Representing a portion of the controversial "Separation Wall" between Israel and the West Bank/Palestine/Occupied territories, this wall dramatically separates the gallery into two spaces, which are used for display, presentation, and performance. The installation is intended to question ideologies, challenge preconceptions, provoke thought and conversation and to demonstrate in a personal manner the nature of this intractable conflict. By hearing the voice and giving credence to the narrative and reality of the "other" there is hope for small steps toward reconciliation.

However, more interesting is what is revealed in this little blurb on Architect Magazine which mentions how Isenberg’s concept decidedly changed as the clashes and violence increased in Gaza. Forgive all of the quotations here, but as I have not seen this exhibit myself I will let others who have do the talking:

The concept was relatively simple for representing a region so inflamed: The gallery would be split into two spaces, with the voice and story of each group on its own side.

Then a clash among Palestinians in Gaza added a third dynamic. Isenberg shifted from symmetry and the “equal presentation of views” to an asymmetrical setup in which the wall becomes a dividing line between cacophony and contemplation, regardless of one's point of view. “Design always changes,” he says. “It becomes a collage of both sides intermingled.”

The same Architect mag article closes on a sentiment I myself share ironically enough given my apparent opposition to political walls and barriers of exclusions, architectures of control, walls of inexcusable division, etc. etc. etc.

Barriers, whether built by the Chinese, dedicated to the emperor Hadrian, or considered to block illegal immigration in the American Southwest, are paradoxical, Isenberg argues. They create likable serpentine patterns. “Visually, if you pull out the political connotation, these things in the landscape are quite beautiful,” he says.

Okay, now that I have essentially copied and pasted every bit of info practically I could find out there written about this exhibition, if you have the opportunity go check it out, and yup, let us know what you think! (Man, I am waiting for someone to take me up on that challenge one day).

Links:
Dialogue on the Wall - Aug. 16–Sept. 15, at the Form + Content Gallery in Minneapolis.
Review by Architect Magazine, Aug. 1, 2007.
Review by MSPMag, If These Walls Could Talk, Aug 2007.
The Architecture of Occupation / Dialogued Out (Thoughts by participating photographer Dennis Fox).

1 Comments:

Anonymous Jay H Isenberg, AIA said...

Hello Brian,
I just came across your blog and after wandering through numerous postings about the Wall, I stumbled upon your post on the project my wife and I designed here in Minneapolis, "Dialogue on the Wall". We appreciate your publishing it as well as your comments regarding what has been written about it to date in the press. The installation is now down, which might tell you the depth of the architectural blog world here in the Twin Cities, since no one has commented nor told you about the project and its run. There were also four different public event/conversations organized around it, each themed to attract a somewhat different audience to engage the conflict through the artwork, and each of these was attended by 45-60 people. Tom Fisher, Dean of the College of Design facilitated one called "Promoting Public Dialogue through Art/Architecture".

As you know this is a very passionate and difficult conflict that touches people including myself deeply on so many levels, but I can say that the feedback we have gotten is that it successfully allowed entry into the issues by many who could not find a way in or were so put off by the typical politically charged party line blathering of both side's spokespeople. I am haunted by the Wall and this was our way of mediating our own torment.

We have photos from the work and I can send some to you which you can post or link back to the Gallery website for your readers. The image you have posted is the media image used for promotion, so the photos will give you a better sense of how the Wall sliced through the Gallery and created the asymmetry of space. One side projected images and text onto the Wall while on the other "pinched" side, sacred objects encased in plastic vitrines and overlaid with poetry from both Israeli and Palestinian poets (the Reliquaries) emerged out of the Wall.

I think you would have liked it. Too bad, it was a beautiful time to be in Minneapolis.

This is an impressive blog by the way, thank you.

Regards
-jhi

10:21 PM  

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