This Place is a photographic exploration of Israel and the Occupied West Bank, which will show concurrently at the Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College, the Picker Art Gallery at Colgate University, the Wellin Museum at Hamilton College, and at the University Art Museum at SUNY Albany. The institutions will develop curriculum around the exhibition, creating new ways of museum-based teaching and learning. The subject matter of This Place — whose themes include history, politics, and religion — is richly interdisciplinary, with broad points of entry for faculty across the arts, sciences, social sciences, and humanities. This inventive inter-institutional approach to teaching and learning with museums is supported by a $222,500 grant from the Teagle Foundation.
This Place includes the work of photographers: Wendy Ewald, Martin Kollar, Josef Koudelka, Jungjin Lee, Gilles Peress, Fazal Sheikh, Stephen Shore, Rosalind Fox Solomon, Thomas Struth, Jeff Wall, Nick Waplington, and the creator of the project, Frédéric Brenner. The twelve photographers, all from outside Israel, create a diverse portrait of a much-contested land.
The French photographer Frédéric Brenner initiated the project in 2005, after spending more than 20 years exploring Jewish identity and diaspora. He felt that it was imperative to consider the role of “otherness” in both the Jewish and modern Israeli identity and to interrogate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the lens of the outsider. The goal of the project was to adjust the grammar and syntax of the flood of images from Israel and the West Bank, to find the space between journalism and art, and to use artists to create a “parole poétique” — one that emphasized the essential humanity underlining this thorny conflict.
Each of the photographers visited Israel between 2009 and 2012 and took a different approach, highlighting the ways in which photography can be used to illuminate multiple perspectives on a complex topic. Wendy Ewald, for example, taught children and adults in fourteen communities to photograph daily life in their homes and villages in her project, this is where I live (2015). Tens of thousands of digital images were collected and Ewald displays a combination of her own work alongside the participants’ photographs and their testimonies about life in Israel and the West Bank. Taking a macroscopic view in his Desert Bloom (2015), Fazal Sheikh examined the ways in which the desert in Israel and Palestine has been altered by decades of militarization, afforestation, mining, construction, destruction, and demolition through a series of aerial photographs. In his singular image in the exhibition, Daybreak (2011), Jeff Wall displays a life-sized scene of Bedouin olive pickers sleeping on a farm near Mitzpe Ramon in Israel, which sits in the shadow of a large prison just as the sun is rising.
The Teagle Foundation will allow for this innovative exhibition structure to become a catalyst for the development of new pedagogical modalities. Each of the four partner institutions involved in presenting the exhibition will offer events, dialogues, discussions, and college courses taught using the exhibition. A symposium after the close of the exhibition will reflect on the project’s outcomes and methods and discuss the role of museums in higher education. The project will be shared with a larger community of faculty and museum professionals through publications in a number of formats.
This Place has been exhibited at the DOX Center for Art in Prague, Czech Republic (October 24, 2014 – March 2, 2015), the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in Tel Aviv, Israel (May 14 – September 6, 2015), the Norton Museum of Art in Palm Beach, Florida (October 15, 2015 – January 15, 2016), and the Brooklyn Museum of Art in Brooklyn, New York (February 12 – June 5, 2016).