Palestinian Studies

2015 Workshop

Hanan Toukan

Free University ─ Berlin, Germany

The Paintbrush is Mightier than the M16: On Imaging and Imagining Palestine in the Global Community

On the afternoon of June 24, 2011 Picasso’s 1943 portrait of his lover Françoise Gilot, Buste de Femme was exhibited on the grounds of the International Academy of Art Palestine in Ramallah in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The bringing of Picasso’s Buste de Femme to Ramallah was the culmination of a two-year collaborative effort between the Academy and the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The Picasso in Palestineproject, which has been more widely advertised and which has attracted more media attention, conversation and analyses both local and international than any other project in the history of contemporary Palestinian art is-amongst other descriptions that have been used to define it-a case in the cultural politics of shaping and articulating through a resort to “imagination”- what it means to be a modern Palestinian subject living in a sovereign State-to-be in our contemporary global world. As such the paper aims to contextualize one moment in Palestine’s visual cultural history within wider debates and scholarship on the construction of subjectivities; the distribution of power; the formation of identity and belonging; culture and representation; and image circulation, translation and reception in a global context and transnational frame.  Specifically, by drawing on theories of affect, resistance studies and art and IR, as well as discourse analysis of the media content of the project, field interview material, and published art journal critiques of the project, the paper queries the boundaries of studying the Picasso in Palestine project.  Tracing the readings of the project across transnational space by locating it within the discourses it engaged with in both the “global” arts circuit as well as the “local” cultural scene, compels a rethink of the notion of the “political” in transnational processes of arts production emergent from and focused on Palestine: the different forms that resistance in cultural practices take, the reasons they take them and how they transform with the passing of time.