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CfH Lectures


17 April 2013

Assassination of an Artist in Jenin Refugee Camp: A Report on Art/Violence

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The violence of the oppressed is often justified, but not always necessary. This talk addresses whether art can emerge from a space filled with violence, a space that can hardly bear life. Using the philosopher Alain Badiou’s distinction between militant art and official art, I will ask the following questions: Can the justification of militant violence create a nonviolent space for militant art? Can militant art contain and transform militant violence without being destroyed by traces of the very violence that it internalizes?  In posing these questions, Udi Aloni reports on the two years that he spent with the graduate students of the Freedom Theatre in the Jenin refugee camp. These two years were split in the middle by the assassination, on April 4, 2011, of the theatre’s founder and my dearest friend, the artist Juliano Mer Khamis. After he died, Aloni wrote, “We worked in the theatre night and day to create our cultural bomb, but we were not sufficiently careful, and it went off in our laps and took your life at the height of its bloom.” In the pre-murder time, Aloni was learning the first steps to becoming a binationalist Palestinian Jew while teaching art and cinema to Juliano’s students. Juliano directed Alice, an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland that he wrote according to his instructions. In the post-murder year, Aloni directed Waiting for Godot in Ramallah with his graduate students, who, in a way, had become exiles from their own refugee camp. They tried – and are still trying – to develop the art of binationalism as a type of militant art. This presentation trembles before Lewis Carroll and Samuel Beckett, and it will roam between theory, art, and action. It features video clips of their theatrical and cinematic work, as well as excerpts from my recent book, What Does a Jew Want? It will be in dialogue with Slavoj Zizek’s work on violence, Walter Benjamin’s writings on Mythic and Divine Violence, Judith Butler’s work on Israel-Palestine, and the Talmudic story “Achnay’s Oven.”