2011: ‘a global civil state of emergency’ – Ariella Azoulay in Artforum

Madrid's Puerta del Sol - 20th May 2011

In a photo-essay for December’s Artforum, Ariella Azoulay, author of From Palestine to Israel: A Photographic Record of Destruction and State Formation, 1947-1950, writes about the reclamation of public space involved in this years protests, from New York’s Zuccotti Park, to Cairo’s Tahrir Square and Madrid’s Puerta del Sol:

Until the public realm benefits all of society and the right to affordable housing is secured, occupiers around the world will not leave voluntarily, and they will insist on populating public space with the clusters of private zones they have instituted through tents, mats, and plastic sheets. Their demands cannot be fulfilled within the existing structure of corporate democracy or the nation-state; they amount to a call for a radical change in the ways the world is shared, a call for a regime in which the interests and well-being of the entire population—not only those the government defines as citizens—find expression in a new civil language and set the stakes for a new politics.

Ariella argues that the protest camp in Tel Aviv could be significant in changing the attitudes of Israeli citizens towards the Palestinians:

In choosing the tent, Israeli protesters replicated a symbol of the state’s oppression of the Palestinian population, but in doing so, they inverted its signification, turning it into a challenge to the political system. Among other things, they were demanding recognition of the “regime-made disaster” that has been ongoing since Israel’s foundation, the destruction of landscapes and environments, the damage to cities and villages, the invasions and distortions of public and private space—all of which affect the entire governed population. Now, when the whole world chooses the verb occupy to designate the reclamation of civil rights in public space, the need to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the need to “reoccupy” public space all over the world are linked more clearly than ever. One sign carried by a woman at a recent protest spells it out: OCCUPY WALL ST. NOT PALESTINE.

Visit Artforum to read the photo-essay in full.

From Palestine to Israel

A Photographic Record of Destruction and State Formation, 1947-1950

Ariella Azoulay. Translated by Charles S Kamen

Beautifully presented photobook, featuring 200 rarely seen photographs from the Palestinian Nakba (1947-50). Includes original text from the author.

“Pursuing the path that she has uniquely laid down in relation to the civil contract of photography, in this powerful new book Ariella Azoulay turns her attention to the formation of the State of Israel and its devastating consequences for the Palestinian people. From deep inside the archive of Israel’s own historical records, she brings to light the photographic documents of that moment, eliciting from them their violent unspoken histories. Her readings will be debated and contested, but there can be no question that she has written a new chapter in the history of what she calls the civil imagination, the ability of the excluded, oppressed and exiled to seize a potential future out of the regime-made disasters of the modern world. From Palestine to Israel will confirm Azoulay’s status as one of the politically boldest theorists at work in the field of visual studies today.” – Jacqueline Rose

“Ariella Azoulay’s scholarship is a rare achievement. Truly interdisciplinary, she marshals material from photography, history and political theory to offer an incisive political critique of the discourses through which we understand Israel-Palestine. The result is the most original conceptualisation of photography, history and politics and their connections that we have seen for a very long time.” – David Campbell, Durham Centre for Advanced Photography Studies

£17.99 only £16.00 on the Pluto site

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