The City of Rawabi, 2016, Five channels High Definition Video, 5 sound channels, 22:36 minutes
Gaston Zvi Ickowicz’s exhibition explores the construction processes of nesting and raises questions as to their affinity with the establishment of nationality, tradition, and cultural identity. At the center of the exhibition is a five-channel video installation, The City of Rawabi (2016). Each of its five screens depicts a single stonemason as he chisels the local stones used to clad the buildings of the first modern Palestinian city in the West Bank with a “traditional” façade.
The upstairs gallery includes the Planting 1–9 (2013–2016) photo series that was taken during mass planting events organized in Israel by the Jewish National Fund. Tree saplings signify a moment of inception or promise, yet also represent events whose ideological meaning unmistakably points to claiming ownership of the land by and for Jews. For the Embroidery Patterns (2016) series, Ickowicz scanned and enlarged patterns from the book Jerusalem in Needlepoint and Embroidery by Ann Roth (published in Hebrew in 1972 and in English in 1973). This book of embroidery patterns of historical and holy sites of Jerusalem was handed out as a gift to employees of Maskit, a prominent Israeli fashion house. Ickowicz’s appropriation exposes the ideological use of these patterns, which is not surprising considering the Zionist narrative of the time, while pointing to the images as part of production, reproduction, and craftwork processes, and consequently asks not just what the meaning of the image is, but also what does it do or how does it act. Here, photography no longer functions as representation, but rather as a practice.
The Chronicle of Change (2016) photo series is the outcome of the artist’s prolonged research among philatelists and collectors of Palestinian postage stamps. It comprises images from four series of stamps that contain traces of processes of appropriation, erasure, and assimilation that make evident the ways by which images take part in the struggle for building a national homeland, and the symbolic significance they gain in the process of establishing sovereignty and gaining independence. Chronicle of Change conceptually stamps the exhibition, which presents a shift from the notion of photography as representation to one of photography as action – an action through which an image turns into a material object that, disseminated in public, gains new meaning and usage every time it is relayed anew.
The exhibition invites us to follow the direct connection it draws between nesting and individual or national processes of establishment, building, and development.