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Past Disquiet. Narratives and Ghosts from the International Art Exhibition for Palestine, 1978


March 19 – May 9, 2016

Collectif de peintres antifascistes painting a banner for a protest on May 1, 1976, directed against the government’s policies towards the arts. | Photo: César, source: Claude Lazar

Collectif de peintres antifascistes painting a banner for a protest on May 1, 1976, directed against the government’s policies towards the arts. | Photo: César, source: Claude Lazar

In the 1970s, artists across the world mobilized around anti-imperialist solidarity movements. Departing from the 1978 International Art Exhibition for Palestine in Beirut, Past Disquiet stitches a speculative history of networks: grassroots collectives across Paris, Rome, and Tokyo; artists’ unions in Damascus, Casablanca, Berlin, and Warsaw; biennials in Venice, Baghdad, and Rabat, and museums in Santiago de Chile, Cape Town, and Managua. Curated by Kristine Khouri and Rasha Salti, the exhibition engages the problematics of oral history while critically exploring the mechanisms of canon-making.

The International Art Exhibition for Palestine opened in the spring of 1978 in Beirut, Lebanon, at the Beirut Arab University. Organized by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), it comprised around two hundred donated works by artists hailing from thirty countries. The exhibition was intended as the seed collection for a museum in exile, taking the form of an itinerant exhibition that was meant to tour worldwide until it could be repatriated to Palestine. During the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and siege of Beirut, the buildings where the collection was stored, and where the offices housing the Plastic Arts Section and Unified Information Office were located, were destroyed.

Past Disquiet. Narratives and Ghosts from The International Art Exhibition for Palestine, 1978 is a documentary and archival exhibition centered on the research conducted on and around the story of the 1978 exhibition for Palestine. It displays, mediates, and incarnates themes and questions that have guided this research, using montaged video of archival material and film as well as contemporary interviews and writing, in addition to reproductions of documents. It draws cartographies linking constellations of artists and groups bound by political affiliations and solidarities, beginning in Palestine and expanding to the rest of the world. The investigation into other itinerant exhibitions intended as a “museum in exile”, contemporary to the International Art Exhibition for Palestine ‒ such as the Museo Internacional de la Resistencia Salvador Allende and Artists Against Apartheid ‒ has revealed recent, yet forgotten museographic practices, while links to the First Arab Biennial in Baghdad (1974) and the Venice Biennale of 1976 have uncovered other cartographies of a shared history.

The first iteration of Past Disquiet was presented at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), from February 20 to June 1, 2015. The second iteration of Past Disquiet, hosted at HKW, will be conceptualized to explore critically the mechanisms of canon-making in both the discourse and historiography of art, in addition to unearthing the relationship between the realm of art and artists’ practices between the Cold War-divided Germany and the causes that animated the anti-imperialist solidarity front, specifically the struggle for Palestine. More information

Past Disquiet is one of the points of departure for the conference A History of Limits. Inaugurating the new long-term project Kanon-Fragen, it interrogates the foundational narratives of institutional canon formation, recasting the history of art and culture as a history of the negotiation of limits.

Past Disquiet is curated by Kristine Khouri and Rasha Salti. Originally conceived and presented by the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) in 2015. The Berlin version is a production of Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, and MACBA. The research for this project has been made possible by the generous support of Rana Sadik and Samer Younis, the Sharjah Art Foundation, the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC), ZedGrant, the A. M. Qattan Foundation, and Tensta konsthall.

Part of Kanon-Fragen

Exhibition