Alessandro Petti, Sandi Hilal & Eyal Weizman and their team of Decolonizing Architecture are proving to us, once again, that not only they keep being the incontrovertible thinkers of the built dimension of the Palestinian struggle, but also that they constitute a crucial avant-garde in the relationships that architecture maintains with territorial and political challenges.
Their new exhibition, in Neuchâtel (Switzerland) is entitled Common Assembly: Deterritorializing the Palestinian Parliament and focuses on the construction site/ruin that constitute the building of this Parliament. As the text that follows this article explains, this building is situated in Abu Dis as the Israel State still do not want to recognize East Jerusalem the capital city of the Palestinian State and therefore pushed the Parliament for it to be built beyond its unilaterally declared border of Jerusalem. Incidentally this same border happens to cut the building in two parts, or rather as the Decolonizing Architecture team states, in three parts. One being part of East Jerusalem, colonized by Israel, the other being part of the Palestinian controlled territory and the last one being hosted by the line itself.
This idea of a space contained within the oxymoronic thickness of the line is obviously something that needs to be celebrated in a blog that took its name, The Funambulist (another name for tight-rope walker) and manifesto (see the small text on the sidebar and the graphic novel associated with it) based on this idea. In fact, in a world and more specifically a discipline, architecture, that materialize lines into borders and walls, the space of liberation might be contained in this infinitely small thickness of the line and we should indeed exercises ourselves to become funambulists.
The last paragraph of the exhibition’s brief is clearly written in this spirit (see also the article on the excellent Arena of Speculation):
Thus we seek to reimagine the building, and its politically and legally suspended status, as an assembly that is able to represent all Palestinians: those living in Israel, under its occupation, and in exile.The activation of an assembly in a legal and political void constitutes a way of thinking and rethinking a space of relationality, horizontality and shared liberation on which colonial reason and the expropriators of the common have built their fortunes.
Here is the complete introductory text:
The Palestinian Legislative Council building – known as the Palestinian Parliament – is simultaneously a construction site and a ruin. It collapsed not by the military violence that saturates our region but by the failure of a form of politics now challenged throughout the Middle East. The building is only one of the several Palestinian Parliaments scattered within historical Palestine and in the diaspora. Other “fragments” of Parliaments (Ramallah, Gaza, Jordan) and the traces of the erosion of Palestinian representation are present in many areas in which the political struggle wandered in the last decades. But that under discussion is probably one of the most representative remains able to trigger the rearticulation of a new and shared political imagination.
Construction began in 1996, during the euphoria produced by the Oslo process. Its location is the product of political maneuvering. Some prominent members of the Palestinian leadership wanted to push the building as close as possible to the Al Aqsa mosque—a stepping stone towards the ultimate establishment of East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian State —while Israeli leadership, military and settlers were simultaneously pushing the Parliament outside their unilaterally declared border of Jerusalem. Consequently, the Parliament wound up in Abu Dis, a peripheral Jerusalem neighborhood. In 2003, after the collapse of the Oslo Process, the eruption of the Second Intifada, and the construction of the Wall just a few meters from the building, construction on the Parliament was halted and the building was left empty: a massive relic and a testimony to the failure of political negotiations.
Our project began with the discovery that – mistakenly or intentionally – the building was not built beside the border, but rather, that the border runs right through the building. Following DAAR’s methodology, which attempts to exploit opportunities found within colonial separations, our project seeks both to de-territorialize and re-activate this legal anomaly. .
Upon discovering that the Israeli imposed Jerusalem border passes through the Parliament, it became clear that the building is sitting, paradoxically, within three different spaces: part within Israeli territory, part within Palestinian controlled territory, and a small strip, no larger than the line’s thickness, exists in a legal and sovereign limbo— potentially an extra-territorial zone. Thus we seek to reimagine the building, and its politically and legally suspended status, as an assembly that is able to represent all Palestinians: those living in Israel, under its occupation, and in exile.The activation of an assembly in a legal and political void constitutes a way of thinking and rethinking a space of relationality, horizontality and shared liberation on which colonial reason and the expropriators of the common have built their fortunes.
Sandi Hilal, Alessandro Petti, Eyal Weizman
Directed by Alessandro Petti
“Common Assembly: Deterritorializing the Palestinian Parliament”
A project by Sandi Hilal, Alessandro Petti, Eyal Weizman, Nicola Perugini
with Yazeed Anani, Nishat Awan, Ghassan Bannoura, Benoit Burquel, Suzy Harris-Brandts, Runa Johannssen, Zografia Karekou, Cressida Kocienski, Lejla Odobasic, Carina Ottino, Elizabeth Paden, Sameena Sitabkhan, Amy Zion.
“Common Assembly: Deterritorializing the Palestinian Parliament” is the second collaborative partnership between DAAR, the Al-Quds Bard Honors College and the Forensic Architecture project, at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths, University of London. It is supported by Foundation for Arts Initiatives and the Municipality of Beit Sahour. The International Summer Research and Internship Program took place during the summer of 2011 in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem. It involved students, architects, NGO staff and village officials. The residency in collaboration with Delfina Foundation included 15 international architects and artists, 15 students from the Al-Quds Bard Honors College as well as local and internationals experts invited to present lectures and participate in seminars.
September 16 to October 28 2011
Centre d’Art Neuchâtel
37, rue des Moulins
T : 032 724 01 60
E : info(at)can.ch