Exploring the “political possibility of art”: Qalandiya International film screening about “Crossing Borders”

On Tuesday, October 25, another contribution to the Palestinian art festival Qalandiya International 2016 was hosted in the Educational Bookshop, Jerusalem. Under the title “Crossing Borders” the British artist, curator and producer Alex Eisenberg was invited by the Al Mamal Foundation to introduce the audience to a number of live art performances that cross personal or international borders.

Live art: between art and activism

Live art is a movement of artists that “involves a live practice and activism”. According to Alex Eisenberg, it is marginalized by art’s mainstream. Therefore, the Live Art Development Agency (LADA) based in London put on its agenda the encouragement and provision of space for such projects. For the Qalandiya International film screening, Eisenberg chose to focus on borders in the context of this year’s Qalandiya slogan ‘The Sea is Mine’. This motto embraces the sea as genuinely Palestinian although it is not accessible for people in the West Bank and even the access to the sea from Gaza is restricted.

photo credit: Flash90

Alex Eisenberg introducing the works on performance and borders

“Live art is a disruptive force for various borders”, says Eisenberg. The short films presented to the audience do so in different ways. Starting at the border between Mexico and the US the program of the evening takes the audience to China, Lebanon and Palestine. From the theme of random questionings at a border to the evident border crossings of Javier Tellez as a human canon ball. From the more invisible/introspective borders the Iranian artist Poshya Kakil faces to the very obvious Separation Wall between Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Opposing and challenging realities

The video that attracted my attention most was a performance by Jeremy Hutchison. After the Oslo accords, Palestinian milk can no longer be sold in Israel while Israeli milk can be found in almost every Palestinian supermarket. The artist smuggled a box of Palestinian milk into an Israeli shop, pretending he found it in the fridge and wanted to buy it. The confusion he causes demonstrates how strange the system is that forms the basis of daily interaction. This situation shows what the audience brought up in the discussion: borders are also a point of contact. Not necessarily positive contact, but interaction.

photo credit: Flash90

Sequence taken from Jeremy Hutchisons work on milk and Oslo (Photo: Jeremy Hutchison/youtube)

Live art explores the “political possibility in art”, says Eisenberg, mostly by intersecting art and activism, the creator and the spectator, questioning and challenging identities and identity politics. That includes gender, race and nationality which is often defined by borders.

The cooperation between Eisenberg /LADA and Al Mamal marks the beginning of a two-year project empowering Palestinian live art. With his visit, Eisenberg starts to connect and build relations with Palestinian artists so that the next time he can screen live art not only about borders Palestinians face, but also live art produced by Palestinians who face these extraordinary borders here.


Guillermo Gómez-Peña & La Pocha Nostra, Border Interrogations (2004), 3 minutes

- He Yunchang, Beyond Mountains and the Sky (2002), 5 mins

- Poshya Kakil, Borderline (2012), 3 mins; watch another performance of her here

- Rocio Boliver/La Conjelada De Uva, To the Rhythm of the Swing (2012), 6 mins

Javier Tellez , One Flew over the void (Bala perdida) (2005), 1 minute

- Dictaphone Group, Nothing To Declare (2013), 3 mins other watch another performance of the Dictaphone Groupor an interview by one of the members Tania El Khoury on Live Art

- Jeremy Hutchison, Oslo (2010), 4 mins

- John Smith, Dirty Pictures(2007), 14 mins

- Sarah Beddington, The Logic of the Birds (2015), 17 mins