Don't Look Away Now (2014), performative protest banner.
Reflections on inscribing 1484 names of Palestinians killed by Israel between July 8th and August 13th in 2014.
I start inscribing following weeks of helplessness and horror vis a vis what we all see unfolding in front of us. Like many of my friends I am enraged and shed tears alternately as the death toll mounts at an alarmingly fast pace, yet again...
It takes me ten hours to write 1484 names. The sheet is 2.80 meters wide and the names are lined 1.10 meters down. I have to stretch more and more often and I try and take pictures as I go.
The death toll accounts vary and I used the list I found here - http://www.imemc.org/article/68429 - it includes 432 children and 243 women. I decide to use black for the men, red for the women and green for the children.
When I write the names I realise not all the children are marked as children and I possibly make some mistakes distinguishing between male and females though hopefully these are minimal. I also realise that there is no accounting on my list for pregnant women, nor for infants and babies. I notice that in some cases death comes following severe injuries and at least once - though possibly on more occasions - death comes because the hospital equipment no longer functioned following the bombardments. The hardest lines to inscribe are the families, some stretching over more than one line.
I do it out of impulse. I inscribe the first two hundred names publicly sitting on my knees as part of a demonstration calling to stop arming Israel and I carry on the next day, this time in the studio as it rains and I can no longer work outside.
Its not an act of repentance, nor redemption - I am a secular being through and through and cannot see how anything can save us from the abyss we’ve reached, nor can I imagine what will remove these dammed stains (and yes that is a reference to Macbeth)
On reflection there are many possible reasons why I chose to do this. Here are just some of them:
As an Israeli I too received a Zionist education so am well versed in commemoration practices. After all - we spent many a days devising ceremonies and activities to remember the millions of holocaust victims as well as the thousands of soldiers who died in the countless wars the Zionist ideology has brought to the region.
I had been taught by both my family and the aforementioned education system, that the world after the second World War would not tolerate war crimes and that the killing of civilians is barbaric.
The country I grew up in and which claims to be democratic has banned a human rights organisation’s video clip reading out these names so that the Israeli public would be able to carry on looking away from the horrors committed in their name.
Having spent the last five years researching play and conflict and the links between them I struggle to find anything playful to say or do.
I still believe firmly that as artist Antonio Muntadas said ‘Perception Requires Involvement’. However, I am not sure, even after ten hours of inscribing, which is plenty of time to think and feel, that I understand any of it - how could we let things like these happen - time and time again?