Accepted Paper:

Critique of the critique: training artists in oppositionality in Ramallah  
Helen Underhill (Newcastle University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper illuminates the strategic adoption of different registers of the political by staff and students at the International Academy of Art Palestine (Ramallah), relating the discourse of the artist as an oppositional figure to the notion of 'resistance' and emancipatory politics in Palestine.

Paper long abstract:

Drawing on ethnographic detail from PhD research conducted at the former International Academy of Art Palestine (Ramallah), between 2014 and 2015, this paper will ask how art functions as a site of oppositional politics for young artists in Palestine. It explores the tension inherent in the fact that art education, with its talk of universal aesthetic (and in some cases moral) values, can be seen as a tool of neocolonialism and western liberalism, yet is also held by students and staff to open a space for much-needed critical viewpoints.

To point to the operation of power and the production of the subject that is involved in this deployment of liberal values within the arts does not necessarily uncover them as entirely negative. This paper draws its questions from a desire to illuminate the complexity of relating to this set of circumstances as a Palestinian artist or art student.

Drawing on a growing body of literature (notably Toukan, 2017) which seeks to analyse institutional critique as a mode of artmaking in the light of the new regional art fairs, institutions and museum platforms in Gulf states with questionable human rights records, this paper asks how Palestinian artists engage in a similar 'critique of the critique' in their artistic practice. Further, it explores the implications of this critique in relation to the current political landscape in Palestine.

Panel P045
From Palestine Out: Art and the Political Imagination