Rising star of Middle East art featured in Rose show

Exhibition delves into national, religious and ethnic identity in the region

In one of Dor Guez's family videos, his young cousin talks about her life as a university student and waitress.

St. George Church in Lod was central to the life of the family, but the priests did not speak Arabic.

Samira, Lod Ghetto, a year after 1948, from the series Scanograms #1

A solo exhibition of videos and photography by Dor Guez, one of the most compelling emerging artists of the Middle East, is being featured at the Rose Art Museum now through early December.

A resident of Tel Aviv with Palestinian Christian and Tunisian Jewish heritage, Guez delves deeply into the complexities of national, religious and ethnic identities in the Middle East, using a range of photographic techniques, archival photos and videos of the experiences and emotions of three generations of Christian Arab Israelis in his own family.

The exhibition, which draws on five major projects completed by the artist over the past three years, fills the Lois Foster Gallery of the Rose with images ranging from the monumental to the intimate. It is sometimes poignant, often thought-provoking and always deeply, warmly human.

Israel’s Arab Christian minority is all but ignored in the narratives of Israelis and Palestinians. Guez’s work tells its story in vivid, beautiful, personalized ways. His grandfather describes how the family weathered the 1948 war from which the State of Israel emerged. A young cousin who is a university student speaks of her hurt at her treatment by fellow students and at the open hostility directed at her in her waitressing job. An uncle tells what it’s like, as an Arab, to be viewed as an Israeli when he visits Ramallah in the West Bank and Amman, Jordan. Family members on and off camera argue about what it means to be a minority within a minority.

As Guez said during a press preview the day before the opening, “They don’t think of it as politics. They just tell their stories. We all know – Jews, Palestinians, whoever – what immigration is and what it is to be a minority.”

Guez’s work has been featured at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and Petach Tikva Museum of Art in Israel and at venues in Berlin, Istanbul, Sao Paulo, New York and Moscow. The Rose exhibition is his most comprehensive to date, and his first major museum show in the United States.

“First and foremost, Dor Guez is a brilliant artist,” says Gannit Ankori, professor of art history and theory and chair in Israeli art. “The work is beautiful, but also fascinating and significant. His art changes the way we think and feel.”

Discussion of identity, religion and ethnicity in the Middle East often are highly politicized and reduced to simplistic dichotomies, but the people in Guez’s work “do not fit into the usual categories,” Ankori said. “This opens the way to new discourse, new ways of thinking about our identities. It opens up the complexity that is the Middle East in general and Israel in particular.”

Ankori, an Israeli who has been at Brandeis two years and specializes in Israeli and Palestinian art, praised the university, the Rose Museum and the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies for “understanding that painful moments in history shouldn’t be avoided but should be addressed in a thoughtful, empathetic manner that opens dialogue.”

Christopher Bedford, the new director of the Rose, said that “Brandeis and the Rose alike are committed to creating discursive spaces in which even the most difficult subjects can be debated, and unexpected common ground identified. Dor's work invites us to do just that, and to tremendous, captivating effect.”

Ankori and Dabney Hailey, director of academic programs at the Rose, are co-curators.

Programs and classes related to the exhibition will occur throughout this semester. Numerous classes will visit and be guided through the exhibition by Hailey and Ankori. Guez will be a guest speaker in classes taught by Ankori and Ilan Troen, the Stoll Family Chair in Israel Studies and director of the Schusterman Center. He also will participate in a program of the Close Looking series sponsored by the Mandel Center for the Humanities, and will give a public talk in the museum on the evening that the exhibition’s catalogue is unveiled.

Supporters of the exhibition include the Schusterman Center, the Office of the Provost, the Artis – Contemporary Israel Art Fund, the Ruth Ann and Nathan Perlmutter Artists in Residency Program and the Lois Foster Exhibition Fund.

Categories: Arts, International Affairs

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