Wednesday, October 3, 2012

John Morita’s work in the Farhat Art Museum

From Reconstructing Memories by Aaron Kerner
John Morita’s work engages the complex history of the geographical area now known as the state of Israel, and the experience of the Palestinians. Perhaps nowhere else on the face of the planet is the history of a geographical area so contentious as the modern state of Israel including the West Bank and Gaza. Even in just formulating the previous sentence some might contest my wording; although most certainly a radical position, some might argue that the ‘modern state of Israel’ is itself problematic because of its founding on May 14, 1948. Radical Zionists too impose ancient Judaic history onto small plots of land inside the West Bank and Gaza in order to legitimize their claims to it. The linguistic rhetoric – the so-called ‘settlers’ – implies that these radical factions have made terra nullius claims to Palestinian territory.
The conflict between Palestinians and Israelis is not just a matter of geography, a David and Goliath power struggle, but in fact what is at the core of the conflict is history itself. As I have said on a few occasions – in discussing the work in Reconstructing Memories – history is always subjective and more importantly it is always a construct. And contrary to its popular conception history doesn’t begin at some starting point in the past and then organically proceed forward through time; rather, history is used to justify our contemporary situation. Understanding the subjective nature of historical discourse it is possible to see how both the Palestinians and Israelis might construct historical narratives that suit their social political agendas. In general it is feasible to see how these conflicting historical narratives might on the whole be ‘truthful,’ however, it is in the process of fabrication that the divergent narratives emerge, ultimately calling into question the possibility of even coming close to an ‘objective’ form of historical discourse.

By John Morita

There is undoubtedly sympathy for the Palestinians in Morita’s work. Indeed there is little question that the Palestinians have suffered great injustices at the hands of the Israelis. Although highly contentious and by no means can any truly equivocal analogy be drawn between the Holocaust and the current conditions under which the Palestinians live, there is nevertheless a sense of bewilderment at the face of Israeli injustice. In the wake of the Holocaust it seems that more than most, the Israelis should have a heightened sensitivity to forced displacement, the effective ghettoization of Palestinians, and diaspora. Morita’s work, in its layering of images, in its depiction of Palestinians who have suffered, or even died, at the hands of the Israelis, humanizes Palestinian history and illustrates the grave results of conflicting historical narratives.

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