Accepted Paper:

Art Interventions in the Service of (In)Tangible Heritage - The Case of Kufr Birʽim Community  


Irit Carmon Popper (Technion - Institute of Technology Israel )
Alona Nitzan-Shiftan

Paper short abstract:

Located in a national park in Israel, the remains of Kufr Birʽim village fall into ruin. Regularly yet temporarily, its Palestinian community performs participatory art interventions on site that counteract official preservation models by referring to tangible and intangible community heritage.

Paper long abstract:

Bar'am is a national park in northern Israel that contains the remains of an ancient synagogue and the ruins of a Palestinian village. While the synagogue is preserved as a symbol of Jewish roots in antiquity, the houses of the village Kufr Birʽim, depopulated in 1948, are neglected and crumbling. This official discriminatory policy has led the village's former inhabitants to initiate independent activities to preserve its cultural heritage. The paper examines their artistic practices focusing on a series of participatory art interventions performed on site by a member of the displaced community, artist and architect Hanna Farah-Kufr Birʽim.

The artist's temporary interventions apply a dry connections technique so as not to interfere with the structural integrity of the ruins. He uses components that constitute an ephemeral alternative to lost architectural elements, such as cloth windows, a woven ceiling or a floor reorganized using kitchen materials. These are symbolically linked to daily culture, thereby enlivening the village's ICH and at the same time embodying its tangible historical presence by filling in the architectural blanks. In their necessarily temporary presence as "park visitors" in their own home, the participants themselves contribute an additional layer of meaning to the symbolic preservation act.

The paper proposes to critically engage with the ways in which ICHs are redefined and reshaped locally and with regard to policy-making. It draws on the intellectual climate the discipline of preservation shares with art, calling for the incorporation of values related to locality and community-based collaborations in the latter.

Panel P063
Heritage, beyond materiality: intangible cultural heritage, collaborative methodologies and imaginations of the future