Tickets: Free Entry
The People’s Archive - Alexandra Sophia Handal
Expropriated Palestinian houses in West Jerusalem are ironically repackaged on the Israeli real estate market as ‘Arab-style’. Their factual history is concealed behind this architectural euphemism. Taking the form of an on-line estate agency, this interactive web documentary art by Alexandra Sophia Handal revisits the individual history of these homes in West Jerusalem, uncovering Palestinian stories of displacement, dispossession and cultural cleansing. Using different modes of narration, Dream Homes Property Consultants (DHPC) patiently and meticulously pieces together a world that was shattered in 1948. In this labyrinthine space, personal tales of abrupt goodbyes, impossible reunions and suspended dreams are sometimes conveyed with a tragicomic edge. Erasures and silences are attended, including testimonies from the Palestinian working-class as well as a first-hand account from one of the few families that managed to remain in ethnically cleansed West Jerusalem before they were ultimately exiled. Neglected and forgotten Palestinian transnational histories are illuminated as intimate stories unfold of how venturous Bethlehemite merchants contributed in shaping Modern Jerusalem during the last decades of the Ottoman rule into the British Mandate by way of their entrepreneurial endeavours in postcolonial Latin America and the Caribbean. Built over the course of ten years, this evolving work is based on Handal’s original oral history fieldwork with Palestinian refugees and exiles from West Jerusalem, combined with her observations acquired through drifting in the present-day city. She considers the role of art in contemporary society by exploring commitment, ethics and freedom through form, making use of the dichotomy between creative practice and scholarly research. Through her investigations on memory, history and power, she proposes ways that art itself can be an archive that safeguards knowledge of collective significance that is under threat by colonialism. Dream Homes Property Consultants (DHPC) has been praised in diverse fields, acquiring a wide-ranging audience within and beyond the art world. This event is a unique opportunity to experience this trailblazing web-based artwork in a performative manner. Oral storytelling, reading and film screening will be interspersed with scripted and improvised reflection.
Raised in the Palestinian global diaspora, Alexandra Sophia Handal was born in 1975 into a Bethlehemite family in Port-au-Prince, spending her youth in Haiti, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. She obtained a practice/theory PhD from the University of the Arts London (2011), for which she was the recipient of the UAL Research Studentship Award, UK (2004). Her initial studies in art were at New York University (2001) and Boston University (1997) with parallel summer programmes in Madrid and Paris. Handal’s most recent solo exhibition is Memory Flows Like the Tide at Dusk at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Roskilde, Denmark (2016), accompanied by a catalogue. Her acclaimed interactive web documentary art, Dream Homes Property Consultants (DHPC) won the 2014 Lumen People’s Choice Gold Award (UK), amongst other honours.