You are on page 1of 21
KISSING POIN"’ KISSING POINT exhibition by Peggy Ahwesh Microscope Gallery Brooklyn, New York November, 2014 Includes: Kissing Point, two screen video projection, looping, 16m, sound. Lessons of War, § stacked monitors, with 6m video, looping, sound. Smart Phone, iPhone with 1m video, looping, silent. Souvenirs, packages, various dimensions. All works 2014. The title piece of the exhibition, Kissing Point was conceived in collaboration with Nida Sinnokrot, acclaimed visual artist and filmmeker. Shot over a period of several years, he was the cinematographer. Sinnokrot's body of work in sculpture, film and installation utilizes unusual materials, repurposed objects and handmade machines in an investigation of Arab displacement and volatility. Thanks to Microscope Gallery, Adam Khalil, Keith Sanborn, Effie Asili, Glen Fogel and Rose Mori for help with the installation. Thanks to Sahar Qawasmi, Bashar Saadeh, Dimitri Karkar, Ness Ayyad and A.M Qattan Foundation for help on various aspects of the production. Special thanks to Robert Hardwick Weston, Casey Asprooth-Jackson and Phil Hopper for their generous support. Quotation from Meron Benvenisti is by way of Eyal Weizman. The catalog essay “The Blind Field’ written by Mary Billyou. THE BLIND FIELD In her new multi-screen installation, Kissing Point, filmmaker Peggy Ahwesh directs us to a series of anonymous spaces where adjacent nation-states meet and even overlap. Here, inherited hierarchical social relations co-exist with horizontal relations based on sharing and equality. Suggesting a place of pleasure, the title recalls the ancient gesture of kissing the ground. A display of respect and relief after a long voyage, this is where the ideology of control backfires. National boundaries are not naturally occurring phenomenon. They outline official agreements between sovereign governments. If they seem arbitrary today, its because they're usually based upon earlier colonial determinations. In reality, stepping over a boundary is easy. This is especially true if you have @ passport, are granted crossing, and have shelter upon arrival. Boundaries can be distinct physical and material entities like mountains, rivers, or walls. They can also be ideological, have unique languages, cultures, and religions, Even if a nation is wedged between two others, each has absolute belief in themselves as being correct, right, and pure. Yet even these belief systems can be porous and shifting. The eponymous film, Kissing Point, shot in collaboration with Nida Sinnokrot, is presented asa double projection. Opening with two panoramas of a work site at night, the camera's curious monocular vision is underscored by spotlights shining from behind each lens: it isa singular vision, doubled. Brooding sound pervades the environment, suggesting alternately large-scale construction and a machine-gun range. Strangely, the soft inside of a forearm periodically appears, as if inviting the viewer into the interstitial space. Further inexorable horizontal movement leads us through more nighttime landscapes and interiors largely unpopulated. Road blocks, detours, and retreats describe a world of circumnavigation with no center. Facades of voided buildings are juxtaposed with billboards selling glamorous interiors, adorned with docile children and families, The figures who do appear in this transitory space seem strange and temporary: a headless man, a woman walking through an empty disco, shrouded women and squatting men. There is a marketplace, where towering gowned mannequins loom, Timberland logos distract, and surly shoe salesmen ply their trade. The film ends with twinned forward movement racing through two tunnels. Another iteration of one-way vision, In this wasteland, the tunnels impress. Produced by highly trained engineers, they are part of a sophisticated infrastructure that indicates a large budgetary line. They reinforce the "good life’ of a model community. Leading to and from Biddy, a small Arab village, the tunnels segregate and isolate, revealing whats left behind. They are integral to the gradual process of the inhabitants forced removal, making way for entirely new residential cities. In the 1976 experimental documentary “Ici et Ailleurs” Godard and Miéville used the words here and elsewhere to indicate Paris and Palestine. Through re-presenting televised images of war, the filmmakers investigated psychological alienation and collective apathy in modern European society. An uncertain and dangerous, elsewhere was delivered here to safe and familiar living room screens. A binary division, here/elsewhere indicates ideology at work, Neat and tidy, its Function cleans up messy remainders. Ideologies, internalized as behavior, become sedimented into custom. Social patterns in turn solidify into architecture, as if they will ast forever. Mirroring the self-defensive drive behind American country clubs and, gated communities, Israeli settlements are borne out of a collective withdrawal into regionalism. These ‘shining cities ona hill’ are vestiges of colonialist imaginaries Both destroy the land, making way for swimming pools and military bases. Expansionist in mindset, this particular cloud kingdom uses armored bulldozers with gun turrets, In recent years, through a combination of consensus and cultural imperialism, Israeli settlements have accelerated, arriving on the tops of hills like soldiers. Its condescending, smooth administrative language is kinder and gentler but still suffocating. “Settlement” sounds more equitable than “colony.” The terms “developing, country,"“mobility assurance,” and “militarized policing” are lawyer-speak for those who can pay ut. The tourist trade ignores political distinctions, creating simulated biblical experiences for clientele who adhere to "nothing in particular.” "Here," degradation is still passed among the élite ke a currency. For many, reality today does not provide a clear difference between “here” and “elsewhere.” Witnessing variations on a theme, itinerant intellectuals, gastabeiters, and multilingual functionaries continue regular rotations to and from the metropoles of “here/elsewhere.” For workers in the Just In Time economy, contingency and precarity have become a form of life, adding financial instability to vast inequality. To this population, here and elsewhere may be the same place, especially when “flexibility,” efficiency, and the ability to sell oneself are the keys to success. Screens have multiplied as well, into office cubicles, elevators, taxis, and onto handheld devices, advancing the prompts for those without hope. Scarce in Kissing Point, the human figure is everywhere in Lessons of War. Symmetrical and generic, the stiff figures are animated, recalling online avatars and automatons. Rigid and mannered, this figurative aesthetic seems artless, but itis highly manipulative. The idealized bodies suffer: they fall from inhuman heights, explode in targeted cars, and are buried alive under collapsed buildings. The statue-like figures are effectively disempowered objects. As viewers we pity them from a higher position, sometimes directly above, from the air. In this variation, the figures can be gray, as if primed but not yet shelf-ready. Generally, they are unisexual figures who look ready for Next Level recycling. Conversely, like Lara Crofts fantasy body, their sexuality may be overdetermined: here are muscle-bound Brutuses. Relating a state of innocent ignorance in the midst of an unhappy world, this seemingly humorless naiveté hides 2 fear of an entirely different body all together. The figures’ contexts are often sketchy: an algorithmic grid and possibly the outlines of a simple architectural space, lie a shelter. The near-perpetual daytime of these scenes contain certain details that have sharp and brilliant color: a red polygon indicates three-dimensional space: a green splash references thrown corrosive acid. A bed sheet with repeating heart motif sets the mood for a female in a melancholic passion. The only scene with a dissolve, she flies with 2 drone in her frozen hands. Emotions are further tempered by remote control, satellites, targeted bombings, and total abstraction of landscape into basic geometric shapes. The point is not lost in the abbreviation; our imagination fill in the blanks of this surreal world. Mediated revolution, via newspapers, television sets or personal devices, either brings us closer to understanding conflict or further alienate us from it. Lessons of War is a compilation of five Pee neue Cm ce Peon tee ee ere earn ne cd documenting reality under repressive regimes. The killing of journalists in Gaza on November 20, 2012 indicates a deep disregard for freedom of speech, and an intolerance for difference. Under these paranoid circumstances, only a unitary vision is acceptable. If journalists are not free to Peete ena re aac eee yee oe Ed ee eo eee Ce A Ee eee en ee ee ete eee os Ret eee ea eee ed at ae ee creek nee ce ee three objects are in an endless loop to and from the artist, sent through the mail from Palestine on Cee one ge et er Nee ee ee packages survived the trip. Ahweshs gesture of good faith only reveals more silences: why were ee eee era eee ee cee een eee policy? Like this unseen customs officer, we must trust the description: "rocks, newspapers, eo aa Once upon a time, David threw a rock and killed a giant. Today, newspapers are like rocks: artifacts of an earlier time when cilizens read, dreaming of their nationhood in public. Souvenirs devices: will we forget newspapers in the future? Like the journalist who sailed his shoe at Bush during an Arab Spring press conference in Cairo, language itself can fly like a bird. Newspapers create citizen readers aware of larger audiences living parallel lives, in synchrony. eon! ‘An empty sign, there is no message to Smart Phone: itis @ video of an exploding Smart Phone PS eee ree ohn eet rat a Mare nad eee ae ee ei ee ee eed ee eee eos ne ieee ee ta me a ee a eee ee ene een ee eee utd communication can be used and abused. Like the apocalyptic vision of punk rock, Smart Phone suggests an outmoded and exhausted future. It explodes rather than implodes, from the inside out. Similar to a film frame burning in the gote of a cinema projector, the structure of the spectacle becomes yawningly apparent. Reality eee ee Cee eee oe ie ee enc Pee ene eee cee Ie eat eae cere harmless, close enough to sleep with, what happens when the romance suddenly threatens sorrow, pain, and isolation? A pocket-sized explosion, Smart Phone acts Pree a en eee tore Bae ec ern eer gy po ene eeaegene el eae peace es Ronee eu Ree aU Laks eee eee een gern Caney Sree amen nen em reas Peete eee ey Beier eae a ee eae onc eee Ce ea eee eR Ree eee ence ene the orientation over authorial intention. In the Peace ele ac) viewer idles, curious and available. If ee ae eee eee Ce eee es hes eee te ees Pe ee toa ea ene cee vision; and Kissing Point is emphatic, directing Perron eee ce ea cores KISSING POINT eae tia The landscape of the West Bank, both physical and sociopolitical, is circumscribed De eine eee ee ate encore cane eee ites pea neh ate el ae a: Ree Mae aes eee et eee CORE RMR el ie Reda Me Ria Meth mS ole aa eS eae oT ee Cae dee eee Cee wandering, bounding off the semi-porous borders when necessary, readjusting and CL a a rer toe eae Coe a et ete the two (enemy) territories must touch, are forced to make contract, in a land divided and contested. A sexual connotation implying intimacy, in which in this fer cela eo Sorel ce Rel tn oleate CC eet tl Nets Cen eneeeareena eee Tg Intrigued by @ Taiwanese company that makes short animations to convey world Yael Sto: RoR Rema Kel eRe eae Reet eRe oN} LTS leiels SL aa oP ae tol Re CO Ta CELE Re ute eased Lc Mets ola Red eM ele Aa chile telat eel ete} Sina a ea ee Lien aera SAR LETT Re RL Lee CM eee eel UC tae tate Maeda ete (Cette Sere Packages mailed to my home address in New York from the West Bank of rocks, DI ee Siege SE eee aa eee een ea a Ce Lea ie eo CCN eT ee cea ce eee Cael borders, affirmations of the affinities of time and objects as fetish and memory aid Ses en oe eee "...The bridges and tunnels are not the real engineering wonder: the road managed to crash the three dimensional space into six dimensions, three Jewish and three Arab, and the points of friction between the world of the Jews and the world of the Arabs continues to bring up sparks of fire."