Proposition for a monument, articulated as 9 stacks of 1000 two-sided off-set printed posters, each 50 × 50 cm, for visitors to take away, and also pasted up around Ramallah.
Exh.: Gestures in Time, curated by Katya Garcia-Anton and Lara Khaldi, part of the inaugural Qalandiya International, director Jack Persekian, 3 – 15 November, various locations in Jerusalem, in Ramallah, and throughout the West Bank.
Comparative monument (Palestine) engages a peculiar Australian monumental tradition: war monuments that bear the name “Palestine”. These monuments, scattered all over Australia, commemorate the presence of Australian troops in Palestine during WW1 and, in particular, Australian involvement in the 1917 British capture of Bir Sab’a, or Beersheba (in turn a critical city in the events of 1948 and the Nakba). These monuments also reflect the realities of the 1920s (when they were erected) and the era of the British mandate, when the name Palestine implicitly invoked the shared position of Australia and Palestine within British imperialism.
Comparative monument (Palestine) begins with a complete photographic record of these monuments bearing the name “Palestine” in and around Melbourne. Figuring this material into a Palestinian context through the form of a proposition for a new future monument – both a kind of ‘home-coming’ and exile for these Australian monumental forms – becomes a way to re-animate these linkages between Australia and Palestine. Nicholson’s work implicates in these forms dedicated to 1917 the events and repercussions of 1948, along with their echoes of Australian Aboriginal experiences of dispossession and colonial violence. Comparative monument (Palestine) links to other recent work by Nicholson in its attempt to re-think the possibilities of the monument in the face of these histories of dispossession, and the acts of imagination and solidarity these histories demand.
Comparative monument (Palestine) was first exhibited in Jerusalem as part of the Jerusalem Show, but also pasted up around the streets of Ramallah.
The full English text of the front of each poster is bellow.
I find nine monuments bearing the name ‘Palestine’ in and around Melbourne: Avoca, Caulfield, Coburg, Donald, Kew, Longwarry, Mooroopna, North Melbourne, and Terang. These monuments commemorate the presence of Australian soldiers in Palestine during WW1 and their role in the 1917 British capture of Bir Sab’a, or Beersheba (or Be’er Sheva, as it is known when it is captured and cleared by Israeli soldiers in 1948, its Palestinian population killed or gathered together and forcibly transported by truck to Gaza, Bir Sab’a becoming part of the new state of Israel).
I walk right around the edge of that vast open space, surrounded by a fence without a gate. It is wedged between the historical Ottoman city of Bir Sab’a and the Israeli new city, a glassy office block, a mall, an eight-lane road with traffic whizzing along in both directions. This is where the Israeli soldiers enter Bir Sab’a in 1948. It is the site of the city’s Islamic cemetery. The low sun picks out the confusion of rocks and rubble and worn headstones scattered through the expanses of bare earth and long grass.
The sites of the nine monuments bearing the word ‘Palestine’ are cleared. The nine monuments are gathered together. They are shipped from Melbourne to Tel Aviv, and transported by truck to Bir Sab’a. They are installed as a single line, each monument abutting the next, side by side, to create a sixty metre-long monumental form that diagonally cuts across the busy road alongside the old cemetery, David Hacham Boulevard. This new monument blocks all eight lanes of traffic. All that stone, the bulk and weight of obelisks and rotunda and carved marble, become a kind of arrow, an over-scaled historical marker, pointing to that vast open space surrounded by a fence. It is a line for soldiers who would enter the city here. The nine inscriptions face the same way: Palestine. Palestine. Palestine. Palestine. Palestine. Palestine. Palestine. Palestine. Palestine.
Comparative monument (Palestine) was also exhibited in Propositions part two at Milani Gallery in December 2012; in the exhibition Palestine, at CACSA in 2013; in Sletto et Corso, Selestat Bienniale, curated by Marc Bembekoff and Julien Fronsacq, France, in September 2013; in Ten thousand wiles and a hundred thousand tricks, curated by WHW, at M HKA in 2013 (including a collaborative iteration of the work with the composer Andrew Byrne), the Beirut Art Centre in 2014, 21er Haus in Vienna in 2014; Melbourne Now at the National Gallery of Victoria, in 2013-14; Concrete, at MUMA, in Melbourne, in 2014; and as artist’s pages in Artmargins, October 2013, Vol. 2, No. 3.
Also included in the exhibition
Ruanne Abou Rahme & Basel Abbas, Amjad Ghannam, Ciprian Muresan, Shahryar Nashat, Cornelia Parker, Amer Shomali, Ra’ouf Haj Yehia and Mohammed Al Hawajr, Rheim Alkadhi, Erick Beltran, Martin Soto Climent, Julia Rometti & Victor Costales, Subversive Film, Wafa Hourani, Uriel Orlow, Jumana Emil Abboud, Marie Zolamian, Yasmine Eid-Sabbagh, Nardeen Srouji, Socratis Socratous, Javier Telléz, Matias Faldbakken,