The spatial imaginary of occupation is one of a cultural war. The work of Larissa Sansour draws our attention to the urgent experimentations in survival that take shape within a landscape of collective revisioning and refusal.
Here, the artist considers the possible futures of Palestinian placekeeping through modalities of time and belonging. “I am interested in what happens to a cultural psyche that has been under persistent and prolonged deprivation and abuse,” says the artist “The idea of creating a space or building on a culture seems to come to a standstill in the Palestinian context” – a standstill that seems less static than fertile ground for dystopian allegories and depictions of parallel resistance.
Sansour playfully critiques and expands on this manipulation of time that is produced from the holds of trauma. She describes Palestinian life as that which exists in a state of suspension, “a culture stuck in a limbo, between the Nakba of 1948 and a projection of a future state, yet the present is non-existent. Instead, it keeps on confirming the past and the future.” By manifesting a future past, time is not only non-linear, but a rhapsody of remaking and intervention. This eerie construction partially plays out in the satirical video work, Nation Estate (2012), where Sansour puts forth a skyscraper as a settlement resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This work explores ideas around the architecture of impending confinement, where the feared future of this political problem is the unchanged future.
Sansour’s use of science fiction and speculative reasoning is a response to the phantasmal labouring towards sovereignty of an occupied people. Constructions of memory and belonging have evolved and exploded into a polemical vernacular. Her work is not filled with hollowed or regurgitant futuristic tropes but steers the viewer to a reflexive abstraction of our reality.
What survives erasure? What is the future of cultural heritage in the absence of place? We enter this discourse in Sansour’s film, In the Future, They Ate From the Finest Porcelain (2016), and her sculptural work, Archeology in Absentia (2016), where porcelain plates, encoded with the Palestinian keffiyeh pattern, are buried by a national resistance group for future archaeological discovery. This gesture, Sansour states, “…questions the idea of authenticity in historical narrative and the transference of fictional artifact into reality. It also testifies to the extent to which an oppressed nation has to go to claim their space and their presence.” In this work, and across her practice, Sansour deeply considers what comes after absence and who tells the narrative of this subversion. Her body of work situates rememory and mentifact as live relics from which to create new folklore for the world we dream of inhabiting tomorrow.
An article by Ladi’Sasha Jones
Featured image : Larissa Sansour, “In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain 2”, 2016. Diasec mounted on acrylic. 75 x 150 cm. Edition of 5. Courtesy the artist.
This article was written for The Art Momentum | Cape Town Art Fair Artpaper. [French version inside]
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