Text of the Multimedia Presentation Performed at Arnes Courtroom, Austin Hall, Harvard Law School

Horit Herman Peled

 

 

On february 25, at dawn Dr. Benjamin Goldstein a medical doctor and captain in the idf (israel defense force) entered a tomb. The name of the tomb in Hebrew is mearat hamachpela or the Cave of the Patriarchs in English and in Arabic ibrahim Mosque. the tomb was crowded with muslem worshipers at their prayer ritual . it was the last day of ramadan. Golstein cocked his weapon and machined gunned 29 man while they were kneeling and praying. Benjamin Goldstein who changed his name to baruch (blessed in Hebrew ) immigrated to Israel in 1983 after graduating from Einstein medical school in NY.

 

Friends of goldstein living in kyryat arba, a Jewish settlement located inside the urban fiber of the Arab city of Hebron or Halil in Arabic testified that he was a gentile humanist doctor who on several occasions helped the other the west bank arabs in need.

 

Baruh Goldstein was killed. One of the worshiperes fractured his head using a piece of an iron metal. He left orphans ,a soft spoken wife and was buried in Keryat Arba or the city of the Four.

 

Upon his death, Baruch became a martyr by many right wing Israelis. his burial site was transformed into a holly grave, a pilgrimage site, a signifier of a cultural bond between burial locations, history, death , memory and nationalism. An infrastructure that fires the ideology of the strong and rightful. An infrastructure cherished and protected with massive idf troops.

 

Asaf an art student, returned last week from a 40 days miluim , which is the army reserve duty and in his very quite fashion told me that he served inside one of the machpela tomb military check point as a medic. He showed me some colorful sketches he drew in his notebook of the stained glass inside the tomb, instantaneously we got into a discussion about his new project for the semester, he could not verbalized nor discuss his feelings and emotions concerning the sketches he drew, He could not deal with the cruel reality at this point in space and time, he has no tools for that, he withdrawns into himself like many others in Israel and will not engage, nor let his human feelings reach beyond and to the other. Thus he contributes to the objectification of the other or the Halil arabs.

 

2 years after the massacre , Avraham Paso a painter from Tel Aviv took a bus from Jerusalem to Hebron 3 days after Rabin assassination approached Goldstein grave

site opened a black paint bucket and splattered the marble grave stones. It was documented on video, by a French reporter. Avraham Paso was trailed and sentenced.

 

It was a cold rainy day, the day Goldstein murdered the Palestinians worshipers it was a Jewish holiday, Porium. According to tradition one has to joy, dance and drink ad lo yada or to a point one doesnt knows. Hanan Porat was dancing with other Jewish settlers in Keryat arba when he heard the news. one must adhere to religious tradition he said and continued dancing. Hanan Porat was a member of Kneset and now he is the head of the Judicial comity of the Kneset.

 

Porim is a joyful holiday the Israeli Jewish schools are closed, children and adults disguise themselves in costumes, there are masquerade parties, the streets of Tel Aviv are flocked with children and adults from all over the country celebrating and having a good time.

Baby Shani a 6 month infant was dressed up in a clown custom when her mother Yael a young and up coming lawyer took her that Friday afternoon in 1997 to the apropo cafe. A new yappie Tel Aviv style fashionable cafe just 200 meters from Rabin's assassination site where his widow and friends met that Friday afternoon like every other Friday afternoon to chat and sing songs of Israel independence from British rule, songs one hardly hears these days. It was a warm afternoon in February the cafe was packed with the Friday afternoon crowds. A young hamas man entered the cafe found a table adjunct to the three chatting young women, ordered tea and blew himself up. The four where killed on the spot, the three women and the Hamas young man. Baby shani dressed in clown uniform survived and is being raised by her father who did not join his wife that afternoon.

 

A spontaneous exhibit was organized in response to the massacre in Hebron at a controversial basement galley named Bograshuv in Tel Aviv. I was asked to show a work. A chill crawled in my spin the convoluted thought that a creative cultural work framed with the borders of a gallery space seemed impudent. The skies permeated earth shattered and immersed into high waters I drawned.

 

The massacre harbored an intersection of hate, cruelty, arrogance, a reflection of an unbearable physical and mental situation no images photographic or other means could express terror. I felt I could use only one sentence ' A verse taken from the jewish morning prayer excluded and recited only by men. The act of selecting, uprooting and appropriating the phrase from the prayrer book, from its authentic context shattered the sanctity of the phrase. Placing it in another context or discourse faded the aura and gave it a different meaning.

This kind of metamorphose was already excersized at the beginning of the century by Marcel Duchamp I relate to the phrase as a found object however a different found object then a machine made object it is rather a canonian religious verse feeding the traditional social structure of male domination.

Using the computerized means of production and means of presenting . The electronic sign was an immediate solution. The phrase looped in the gallery as a commercial sign on 42 street.

 

using industrial means of producing served 3 aims:

1.     collapsing the exclusive nature of the male prayer by transporting it from the prayer book to the electronic sign which functions as a bulletin board, thus, fragmenting the coherence of the ritual context.

2.     The computer net rhizome technology is a virtual world. placing an intersection of the net in a physical gallery represented by its means of production isolates conceptually the work from the architectural context of the gallery and undermines the legetimacy of the gallery as a sole space of representing art.

3.     the work is not an art object in the conventional understanding it is rather a work which can not be separated from its means of production, or the work is within the tools, there is no separation between process and work. Thus, the art object is a signifier carrying no value of intrinsic unique exchange.

The computerized electronic virtual world functions as a refuge, a dynamic open asylum, a convenient grazing land for the visual artist. A potential perpetual terrene where tools and paints, are abundant. It is a creative haven, a huge 2 dimentional studio which occupies a very small space. there is no negotiations on materials the minute the hardware and software are installed in the technological apparatus. the entrance to this world is by simple physical gesture pushing a button. It could be everywhere due to its portable qualities a wonder industrial machine which could be placed in the corner of the bedroom and could be seen as any other home furniture. This technology locks the flow between mind eyes and the screen. It infringes the traditional screen viewer relationship with its interactive broadcasting and transmitting qualities.

 

Visual culture is characterized by the presence of framed flat portable objects containing virtual spaces. The borders of the objects mark 2 separate coexisting spaces: the physical and the virtual. The virtual spaces contain visual signs which are usually viewed from a reasonable distance. We can label these spaces as screens.

Lev Manovitz divides the genealogy of the screen into three: the classic screen, the dynamic screen and the computer screen. The classic screen is, usually flat, squared and functions as a window to another representation. Qualified in this category are paintings and photographs.

 

The dynamic screen burst into the world about a decade ago with the technological invention of the moving image. This screen bears all the qualities of the classic screen, however, the added value of the dynamic screen is the capability of representing changing images and thus transform the imaginative space to a more so-called realistic space. In this category we can recognize the movie screen and the video screen.

The third screen the computer screen is interactive and the imaginative

space is composed of multi signifiers: functional and representational. in the computer screen the classical and dynamic screen metamorphose into a window which is interactive. The signifiers on the screen are

visual signs guiding the viewers in the pursuit of their quest.

 

Osams Hamad was born in Anapta, a small village in the west bank. I knew Osama 20 years ago when he was a student at UCLA. Osama leaves now in Philadelphia teaches at Rutgures university and also works for the Palestinian authority as an economic advisor. Being a boy in 1967 Osama remembered how the children, women and men were rushed and gathered in the square of the village by the Israeli soldiers. Then they were bordered on buses which took them to Jericho military check point to be transferred to Jordan. In the confusion and hysteria he remembered screams of women and shouts of soldiers. He felt the first time in his life as a boy the sharp taste of reality, being a refugee. The buses stopped near the Jericho check point some of the refugees as he recalled already crossed by foot the bridge to Jordan. After several hours the people were bordered again on the buses which took them to a final stop back to Anapta. His family still lives in that village were many houses are vacant, no refugees were allowed to return to the village. The first time I heard Osama's story was only two weeks ago.

 

Check Points

The computer screen functions as an intersection within a virtual electronic net. The seen in an intersection are visual and audio signifiers constructed by multicolored and alternating projected light points. Transaction of light and color create the context and content of the projected visuals.

A military checkpoint is an intersection as well, yet the transactions in the checkpoint are physical not virtual.

Military checkpoints are netted all over areas A,B,C and D in the west bank and the gaza strip, No military check point could stop the Hamas suicide bomber, check points were transparent in the eyes of the Doctor, while checkpoint are blind to the Israeli settlers.

Thus, unlike the virtual world where the electronic net is totally effective defined and registered, in the bodily world the social and politcal net is full of holes.

 

The Gaza check point stripped identities

During the 25 years occupation of the west bank and Gaza by Israel, the Palestinians were the majority of the manual laborers depicted as suspicious other seen/unseen human beings, dressed up in ragged cloths humiliated gaze. Facades of human beings moving images on TV, no interaction. The apprehensive uneasiness from the Palestinian worker objectified, dehumanised these people and affirmed racist assumptions. The fixed visual image of a Palestinian worker perpetuated the iconic sign of fear and other.

The installation, "Stripped Identities/Digital Terror" deals with the fixed image, with the facade representation of a Palestinian worker in and around the Gaza Check Point.

I spent several days and nights in the Gaza Check Point. Dekel a student joined me once and we drove from Tel Aviv To the Check Point at 2 am. It took us an hour. It was dark and the area was swarming with thousands of Palestinian workers, buses, massive IDF soldiers on foot and on military jeeps. Dekel was terrified and stood very close to a group of soldiers flirting with them while photographing . In the darkness one could hear intense voices in hebrew and in arabic their were no violent gestures on part of the workers, only a certain flavor of chaos, an energy of struggling men stripped of their identity, humiliated through a process of being suspects of terror of standing hours in lines to be checked physically all for getting a daily job in the Israeli market for 19$ per a day work. Occasionally, a military jeep would pump gas a soldier will use a megaphone and in arabic order the people to clear the exit of the long meshed corridor leading to the Check Point. By the time dawn was crawling I could see the faces of the workers boarding the buses.

 

The political situation

During Israels occupation there was no economic development in the occupied territories. For that reason the people of the west bank and Gaza had to find there livelihood in Israel. While working in Israel they had no social benefits, and were subjected to military rule. Numerous imposed curfews on villages and towns in the west bank and Gaza strip restricted movement and ceased the resources of income.

Intervals of long curfews brought families to the brink of hunger. The Oslo peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian authority did not better the situation, it brought the formation of a military web check points on the eastern, some of the southern and the northern borders of Israel. However, the people of the west bank and Gaza are still under Israeli patronage for their sustenance. Every day about 50.000 workers mostly man cross the Gaza Check point , they wake up at 2-3 o'clock in the morning and a stream of human mass enters the checkpoint around 3-5 am they return to the Check point around 4-5 pm the next day. Each night they are being lined up for hours, searched and registered via a computerized plastic card.

The Magnetic Card an installation

This is a proposal for an interactive installation, the context is digital terror coexisting within the digital revolution. Terror, a human activity commonly conceived to be a political act carried out by groups that aim their illegal activities against an economic and political power, engaging in violent acts that harm innocent civilians.

But terror is also a reciprocal activity, a reaction against legal and institutional oppression perpetrated by economic and political powers.

The digital revolution harbors the digital terror.

The digit, a human invention, acts as a dynamic signifier, a host for tangible numbers. It is a transparent concept that contains within itself the ability to function as a communicative language, and as a tool.

The digit has served political regimes through the ages. Digits swap subjectivity, strip complex identities, transform the human spirit into matter signified by numbers.

 

The Nazis branded numbers into the arms of human beings. Branding served their racist ideology; it mapped and cleared the way for the transition from subject to object. Thus, the digit provided a major instrument for collapsing the modernist concept of subject into object by plastering the interiors of the subject, and packaging it into an object.

 

The digital revolution continuously renders into a spatial unified brain orchestrated by a centralized/decentralized mechanism of selective, hierarchical memory called Cyberspace. Access to, and decoding signs in the virtual world are restricted to those who possess the digital means of production. Advantageous inclusion is granted to some citizens in the first world, at the price of excluding the majority of the world.

 

Exclusion from the world digital revolution disadvantages, deepens poverty and creates the conditions for terror. Furthermore, the ability of the computerized digit to cache and camouflage individual social information with bodily physical characteristics, molds it into a tool of total control, an unseen energy propelling terror against those in the third world who need to find a living in the first.

This inclusion/exclusion is emblematized very clearly in the magnetic card.

The magnetic card stores instructions, is portable, and highly desirable. A key to a brave new world, to limitless opportunities. It embodies revolutionary technology. Cutting through geographic, national boundaries, it imprints subjective traces in consumer computers.

However, the ones who own the magnetic card live in the first world. Those who live in the third world do not own the consumer plastic card. They carry a magnetic card that invokes the computer and classifies the subject carrying the card only as an object. The revolutionary nature of the magnetic card in the first world, flips into one function of total control in the third world. It denies subjectivity and relates to human beings as objects. Thus technological revolution in one social context becomes terror in another social context.

This work is composed partly on a photographic syntax of appropriating images in and around Gaza Check Point. A laser or a metal reconstruction of the long meshed barrier which leads to the Check Point. A woolen rug representing computerized magnetic card produced in a non technological fashion and operates in the installation as an entrance rug signifying the terror/surveillance aspects which are manifested in the digital revolution. the entrence to the installation is law and narrow, the space is in total dark, limited to one viewer. entering the space activate 3 consecutive transparent screens representing moving images captured in the check point and screened in short intense intervals, fragmented flashes of painterly and photographic intense atmosphere images. The viewers enclosed narrow space simulates the surrondings a Gaza worker has to encounter on route to work. The surveillance/terror aspect of the installation represented by the magnetic is depleted by transforming it into a rug into a passive object carrying the image of a magnetic card to be stepped on. However walking through the dark narrow enclosed space projected with images on transparent screen and sounds, activated with viewer movement in this space is 2 folded

Using computerize technological tools to create and present the work on one hand and on the other the vehement intense surrondings within the corridor where the viewer can wonder and become the other in a closed and mingle with the projected images on the screen. The survelliance is activated by the viewer as his body activates the source of light which I the projected images on the screens. The viewer will sense and recapture

a memory of the other , of the one who is stripped of identity by means of digital terror.

What is the context of making art at the end of the 20th century?

The symbiosis between humans and complicated tools, is the paradigm of the digital revolution, this is called hybridization, or hich took hybridization a giant step forward, as compared with the industrial revolution before it.

Digital hybridization has two faces:

(1) Alienation --- the result of the exploitation of workers and consumers by the industrial capitalist apparatus. As Horkheimer and Adorno (1993, p. 121) argued, "a technological rationale is the rationale of domination itself." The subjugation of nature means domination of human beings through the use of technology in the context of capitalist culture. The 20th century witnessed the monstrously destructive force of technology during World War II, especially in the Holocaust -- a meticulous factory apparatus for the mass production of death.

 

(2) A stream of potential for endless human creativity, that has become available, in an unprecedented way, to the end users of digital products.

 

The dialectic between human oppression signified by alienation and the liberating promise signified by technological creativity may open a window for an alternative, oppositional art making. In the Cyborg Manifesto, Donna Haraway sketches the conditions for the potential liberation that could result from hybridization and views it from the standpoint of the cyborg:

It [the cyborg] is oppositional, utopian, and completely without innocence. No longer structured by the polarity of public and private, the cyborg defines a technological polis based partly on a revolution of social relations in the oikos, the household. Nature and culture are reworked; the one can no longer be the resource for appropriation or incorporation by the other. The relationships for forming wholes from parts, including those of polarity and hierarchical domination, are at issue in the cyborg world (Haraway 1991, p.151).

The matrix of cyberspace holds the potential for new dimensions of time and space, where access is abundant. Consequently, everyone is welcome to dwell inside, under the condition of their free choice to metamorphose into cyborgs. This optimistic assertion, however, must be qualified, in view of the fact that the technology that is the crucial element of the cyborg signifies alienation and exploitation. Moreover, cyberspace is an exclusive club, open mostly for inhabitants of the first world.

 

The other element of the cyborg is the human side. The human embodies prospects for contradicting the technological, alienating aspect of the cyborg by exposing and negating the oppressive aspect of its existence. Moreover, existing digital technology can be utilized to draw awareness to the destructive forces technology produces in capitalist culture.

 

Metaphorically speaking, a cyborg existence is equivalent to the body - mind dichotomy, where mind is the human side of the cyborg and technology stands for its body. The human side is the conscience, which can tame the bodily side and bring it to a more humanistic comprehension and behavior by exposing and negating the alienating moment which technology represents.

 

Cyberspace hybridization enfolds the behavioral principles of the material world, yet it is blind to the physical, bodily dimension of human existence. Cyborg identity is made up of sensual and intellectual expressions rendered by means of pictorial visuals, text and sound , the expressive media of the artist. A cyber artwork is free of the limiting and defining qualities of time and space, much more so than the traditional machine-made objects. Thus, a cyber artwork collapses the standard definition of the artwork: A painting, a sculpture, a photograph, a video, a movie or even an installation, are intact objects, whereas artworks in Cyberspace are interactive, streaming, and constantly metamorphosing. Still, they do share with traditional art objects a geometric frame that houses the changeable content.

 

A cyber artwork that exists on the net is framed with text and visual signifiers/icons representing the software hosts. Thus each virtual work is composed of two layers of signifiers: one representing the tools of production, and, indeed, their manufacturer; the other expressing visually the creative impulse of the artist. The second layer of signifiers corresponds to the artworks we find in the traditional spaces of the museums and galleries. The first layer, that bears the imprint of those who made the artwork physically possible, corresponds to the lists of patrons we find in museum catalogs and on their administrative rosters. However, while traditional patrons of the art are acknowledged only outside the frames of the art objects themselves, representations of the owners of the digital means of production are etched onto the artwork in a vivid and clear way. Moreover, unlike the traditional patrons of the arts, the new patrons are ignorant of the specific authors and producers. Their patronage is universal for all who choose, and can afford, to dwell in Cyberspace. It forms an inseparable, interdependent context for the changeable content of the creative work.

 

2. Globalization

 

Cyberculture roams on the elusive space of the digital means of production: a whole new culture is energized by electricity. The culture starts with turning on the switch, and there is no culture when the switch is turned off. No doubt a possibility for a new culture. New social and economic relationships are awaiting, and we are barely scratching the surface. Yet the new space is not empty, nor is it a void or a vacuum. With its inauguration, reproductive behavioral modes entered and filled the endless electronic space. At the same time the prospects for a new frontier, a promised land, extend our imagination and our romantic beliefs in the goodness of humanity. Taking Cyberspace as a resort location, humanity can graze in harmony. Pierre Levy, in his essay,

"Toward Superlanguage," foresees that cyberculture could lead to collective intelligence (Levy 1994, p. 16). Roy Ascott builds a cyberutopia with his telematics constructs, proposing a model for merging technology and intuition (Ascott 1997).

These two theoreticians point to a prominent school of thought in relation to cyberculture (Cubitt 1998, pp. 80, 149). Indeed, the digital tools are inspirational and one has to embrace the capabilities and potential of digital developments. Moreover, art works promoting the formation of creative, constructive visions of the future are inspirational for change. However, one must also be aware of the fact that Cyberspace is still just one field of human endeavor, and that it houses reproductions of social and cultural behaviors as much as the other fields.

 

Cyberspace is a milestone in Globalization -- the process of creating a global capitalist market. Globalization relies on digital technology for its consummation. Computer companies that facilitate Cyberspace function not only as its constructors but also as its landlords. They are the dynamic entrepreneurs who set sail for the horizon of forever expanding globalization.

 

Globalization is all-inclusive. The cliche, "the world is a global village" could be perceived and welcomed only by the members who are the masters of that village. Unfortunately, those who function as the serfs of the village constitute the majority of humankind, about 4/5 of humanity. Globalization redefines the capitalist mode of production in such a way that the manual laborers who assemble computer hardware reside in the third world, "south of the border," while management resides in the first. The consumers of hardware and software also reside mostly in the first world. Those users of the digital media are inducted into an exclusive, worldwide fraternity. The interiors of that fraternity are designed, basically, by one monopolistic conglomerate and the furniture is supplied by adjunct producers. Microsoft dictates to most computer users in the entire world the styles and ways in which they can function, interact and produce in Cyberspace. Microsoft creates an inter-symbiosis with the computer hardware industry by forcing Microsoft operational systems on each and every PC, building an ever-growing web of digital points or stations between which no border or boundary prevails. By colonizing each point Microsoft is crowning itself as the significant sole monopoly in Cyberspace. Microsoft is thus a signifier for the new world of the 21st century.

 

But, as I have indicated, the digital industry also sustains the potential for the facilitation of a liberating creative environment. That potential is limited, however, to a distinguished group of world-citizens, while there are two other groups in existence: one that suffers the exploitation and repression of the globalization process and of the digital revolution, and includes the majority of humanity, and another that must compromise its own cultural identity in order to participate in the digital revolution, due to the mere fact that digital technology operates basically in one language only -- English. Thus, Anglo-American ethnocentrism functions as a universal axiom adapted to local arenas.

 

In spite of all these reservations, digital technology still has an emancipatory potential with respect to the art world. It functions as a means of producing, distributing, and viewing cultural codes, while never turning them into art objects. This disappearance of the art object emancipates the art producers, their production and their viewers from the bondage of the mirrored object situated in the commercial context. Stripping the artistic codes of their material objectivity and reaching the possibility of a state of mind detached from materiality, combined with the digital means of creation, can extricate a stream of free imagination that would melt into endless web arrangements of distribution.

 

3. The Responsible Subject

The disappearance or metamorphosing of the art object into electronic virtuality retains the signifiers of objective materiality, while shifting artistic production to a new mode, where oppositional work is not restricted by the contemporary narrational code of the art field. Artworks in the net are in a position to utilize globalization as a contradictory context for negating the terror aspects inflicted by the digital revolution. Compromising cultural identity is the price one has to pay for engaging in the process of collapsing the hegemony of the art object, if one does not happen to belong to the English-speaking world.

In the digital world the seen is not only a cultural signifier of abstract ideas, feelings, emotion, etc . It is rather a vast number of interactions of identities, values, commands, representations, etc., which appear visually on the screen through the means of changeable light points. The representation is paradoxical, metamorphic and nomadic. The context for the art work in the virtual is postmodern, as the same light points, in different configurations, can embroider an artwork, a commercial visual, an interactive command as a signifier of a tool, a monetary transaction, a legal document, etc. A streaming montage where the visual of an artwork is equal to any other visual, thus shifting the meaning of the digital artwork to a different paradigm. The digital context makes it possible to cut out the middleman, the gallerist or museum curator , and there is a dialog between authors/producers and viewers. And, of course, the monetary exchange value of a work of art seen on the electronic screen aspires to nothing.

 

All of these factors construct an art field where the merit of art could change from speculative exchange value to cultural use value. A cultural exchange on a non-economic basis can point to a different direction in art making. Moreover, access to a PC enables accessibility to the most advanced technological means of industrial production. Thus, there is a shift in the traditional relationship between the art producers and the social means of production. The artists are no longer only commenting/criticizing or mediating by the anesthetization of the means of production, from an outside and alienating position; they are working with the means of production from within. The artwork no longer represents the social means of production through simulation, but rather uses them directly. Paradoxically, the marriage between the economic digital means of production and the artistic ones produces a possibility for an art field outside the hegemony of the market. This could lead to the collapse of prevailing concepts about art.

 

To sum up, a meaningful art work on the plane of the digital revolution is a work that points towards the possible fulfillment of the emancipatory potential inherent in this revolution. It is a work that utilizes the advances of technology in order to criticize and subvert the socio-economic and political contexts within which this technology is being created, diffused and controlled. Since the means of digital artistic production are predetermined and controlled by profit-making corporations, indeed by one global conglomerate, to be a responsible citizen of the global village, the artist must seek to express the voice of those who are terrorized into silence by the digital revolution.