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Bi-national allegory: Israel-Palestine and the art of Larry Abramson.

THE FIRST TIME I SAW ONE OF LARRY ABRAMSON'S PAINTINGS, MY IMMEDIATE reaction was: "No. You can't do that." I was looking at his 1999 composition, Elyakim Chalakim 1, which struck me not as a modernist collage but as a collision of disparate elements that refused to synthesize yet insisted on appearing together, as if forced to co-exist by a pure act of arbitrary artistic will. And the collisions struck me as not merely iconographic (the abstract black square and the representational figure, a generic emblem of a cutout crescent moon). There were also the fiat black-and-white forms against a further bifurcated background of broad horizontal and vertical strokes; a single broad stroke curving down from the black square and returning to it, appearing again at the top of the square, as if a kind of embryonic or fetal-shaped form was behind the square, a pod nestled between the vertical and horizontal swipes. And then this fetal form, obviously painted in one bold gesture before the application of the black square/white crescent overlay, seemed to be sprouting something at both extremities: below, a tentative, hesitant gesture of narrow, branching strokes, like legs or roots reaching down but not finding a ground to stand or plant themselves; above, a translucent oval shape in which a tangled rhizomatic duster of barren branches appears, as if cocooned in a nimbus or aureole. Meanwhile, extraordinarily thin streaks or dribbles of paint run (mostly) vertically down the canvas, suggesting (especially at the lower edge of the black square) a kind of drainage, as if the square had "wounded" the fetal form beneath, and left it leaking blood or amniotic fluid. Finally, just when I thought I had taken note of everything, my eye picked up stray horizontal strokes at the left and fight edges, suggesting a space beyond everything in this multilayered surface. And above all, fight at the center of the black square, heretofore unnoticed, a tiny flaw, a quasi-organic shape: a starfish or perhaps an illegible stain, like one of those anamorphic apparitions that disrupt the perspectival order of Renaissance painting. (1)

In this thick and rather naive description I have been following Michel Foucault's advice to "pretend not to know" the proper names and labels to apply to a painting; the point of this pretense, Foucault explains, is to use a tentative, provisional and almost "anonymous" language in the encounter with a painting, before rushing to the safety of art historical tags for style, iconography, emblematics, and, for lack of a better word, meaning. I do this because I think the painting, however knowing and learned its author, solicits an obtuse reading of the sort I have proposed, one that does not know how to read what has been stroked and inscribed and drawn and affixed to this canvas. The painting seems to resist any single template of unification, and shimmers between alternative "aspects" which "dawn" (as Wittgenstein would put it) only to be displaced and shattered. These registers of visibility are compounded by disparate modes of legibility that simultaneously invite a decoding (the black square as a token of abstract modernism, specifically Malevich) and a re-encoding or encryption (the tiny blemish on the black square) that resist decipherment.

All this produces an effect that goes well beyond "multistability," the familiar optical illusions like the Duck-Rabbit, which shuttle between contrary seeings or readings. Perhaps we should call it "polystability" to indicate the numerous levels of ambiguity and dynamic tension-iconographic, stylistic and material--that co-exist in what is after all just one painting. It is a painting, however, that provides an exemplary threshold, a sense of the way this artist's work creates a space capable of accommodating contradiction and dissonance.

Abramson's composition shuttles between the two main forms of the literary and pictorial genre known as allegory, providing on the one hand a fairly transparent "picture language" in which every image can be translated into a corresponding word, and on the other hand a veiled, hidden assemblage of hieroglyphics that conceal a secret or forgotten meaning. If we begin, for instance, with the most prominent clue to the painting's meaning, its title, we can make out a very rough, schematic picture language in which we see a frontal portrait of the figure of Elyakim Chalakim with his head and legs, his arms in the air, and the black square as his breast-plate, the crescent moon as his scimitar. This figure appears as a kind of frontally posed icon. A second glance, however, suggests that despite the strikingly vertical orientation this is a landscape that opens out through a gateway (between the arms which now become pillars) onto an unseen vista beyond the painting; the figure suddenly has his back to us, and is looking out toward a scene that is blocked from our view, except for the sky and the paradoxically barren tree of life (or is it knowledge?) on the horizon. This view on the composition is readily activated when compared with Abramson's Nero 1 (1984), depicting the obstructed path of Moses on the way to the Promised Land.

Of course now I know more than I did when I first encountered this painting. Thanks to the knowledgeable writings of art historians like Gannit Ankori, Gideon Ofrat and others, I have learned how to read these paintings as allegories of the history of modern painting. The black square is Malevich's; the virtuosic swipes, the relics of expressionism and action painting; the crescent is a cutout; the branching figure in the bubble of light can be read as a brain, rendered in the translucent network of abstract brush strokes reminiscent of De Kooning's late paintings. And I have learned that the figure in the painting, Elyakim Chalakim, is a kind of a golem or Frankenstein, "a body consisting of parts ... rising from the garbage heap," (2) but who turns out to be, not the destructive golem-warrior, but a great poet-prophet who sings of re-construction and harmony. (Abramson's "inspiration" for this figure was a children's trading card in which Elyakim Chalakim was literally and concretely depicted as an assemblage of tools, appliances, and trash (3)). I have also learned that Abramson is regarded by some--probably mistakenly--as a religious painter, drawing deeply on Jewish legends: Moses viewing the Promised Land from Mount Nebo, where he is to die; Cain slaying his brother Abel; Onan's defiant wasting of his seed; and the terrible story of the child-murdering rebellious wife, Lilith. In view of his subversive stance towards these legends, it would probably be more accurate to call him a painter of the sacred, as distinct from the religious--an artist concerned with the totemic objects and images that pour out of the profane "black hole of religion." (4)

Of course, there is more to learn about the insider knowledge of Abramson's painting. I am but a distant observer who feels like the man who fell to earth every time he arrives in Israel-Palestine (5); a non-Jewish American who speaks neither Hebrew nor Arabic, a member of the Hibernian race (arguably a lost tribe) that migrated from Ireland to America during the great potato famine. As an American born and raised in the western United States, nurtured in the desert landscapes of Nevada, Israel-Palestine has always struck me with a sense of uncanny recognition, recalling my own experiences of growing up in close proximity to the tribes of dispossessed Paiute Indians, a people whose similarity to the Palestinians was remarked upon in the 19th century by writers such as Mark Twain. (6) Perhaps, then, an outsider may be able to see something in Abramson's paintings that is not evident to the insider.

It is therefore from a very strange, that is to say "American" vantage point that I encounter Abramson's paintings; the surprise I have felt in reading about these paintings is the lack of attention to what seemed to me the most obvious thing about them, their legibility (or perhaps illegibility) as allegories of a country divided against itself. (7) Surely this would be too crude and obvious a reading, but perhaps that is another way of naming the American vantage point I bring to this work: we Americans are notoriously crude and obvious. I hope to complicate this perspective by suggesting that Abramson's paintings are perfect examples of what Fredric Jameson called "national allegories," in his seminal 1985 essay on that subject. (8) That is, they are (as some have noted) riddled with political allusions, entirely in keeping with the activist politics of reconciliation that Abramson has pursued throughout his career. Abramson's painterly practice, I suggest, is a multi-leveled and highly unstable, provisional allegory (or the disjunctive assemblage of allegorical elements) into figures and landscapes that face the viewer like an icon, unfold before her like a landscape, cross his path like the found objects of tsooba, (9) or block her way like the abyss of blackness in Malevich's square. I want to call this "bi-national allegory," as a way of linking Abramson's art and politics, and of seeing his paintings as engaged not just with the history of modern painting or with mythological symbolism, but with the very real political and material conditions of the divided Israel-Palestine.

Jameson's concept of national allegory has been the subject of ferocious debate since its original publication in 1985, subjected to a blistering critique by Aijaz Ahmad and others, mainly for its over-generalizing hypothesis that "all third-world texts are necessarily ... allegorical, and in a very specific way: they are to be read as what I call national allegories, even when, or perhaps I should say, particularly when their forms develop out of predominantly western machineries of representation" (69, n. 6). I do not enter here into the details of this debate; I invoke it only in order to provide a template for understanding the specific work of Larry Abramson as a mediation between a whole range of antinomies, specifically the relation of traditional and modern cultures, private and public spheres, poetics and politics, capitalism and socialism, first- and third- (and perhaps second-) world cultures, Europe and the Middle East, Jews and Arabs and Christians.

Simply to list these antinomies is, I hope, sufficient to provoke a different angle of vision on Abramson's work. Perhaps most immediately evident is the clash between modernism and tradition, often glossed over by Israeli art critics oriented toward a European or transatlantic perspective. But should it not strike us at the same time, as a dimension of the Israel-Palestine conflict, that here is one country, divided between an aggressively nationalist and modernizing political economy on the one hand, and a more traditional agrarian and artisanal economy on the other hand, one whose claims to national identity are disputed and even denied? (10)

And shouldn't it occur to us that the dialectic between modernity and tradition is immanent within the Palestinian and Israeli peoples as well? On the side of the Israelis, there are the contradictory impulses of Zionism itself as a progressive, modernizing nationalist ideology at the same time that it claims a foundational myth in ancient tribal and racial identifications, quite literally "grounded" in the sacred soil of Israel. On the side of the Palestinians we find one of the most literate and intellectual of the Arab peoples (for which they have sometimes earned the label "the Jews of the Jews"), whose national struggle has been inspired by third-world revolutions and forms of socialism that, at some deeper level, are consonant with the socialist forms of Zionism. All that alongside a deeply religious and tribalistic culture, rooted in the land and subjected to abject economic and political deprivation in the form of half a century of occupation. Both sides of the struggle (and the governmental entity) that is Israel-Palestine or Palestine-Israel are self-divided, increasingly faced with the prospect of civil war between secular and religious movements.

So when we look again at Elyakim Chalakim 1, we see a monstrous assemblage of the poet-prophet who might bring together--though never unite in an "organic unity"--the contradictions of a bipolar nation. We must read this figure politically, then, as an iconic updating of Hobbes' Leviathan, the avatar of political sovereignty displaced to a radically divided nation-state. His ethnic identity is conspicuously incongruous: he is a Russian (Malevich), a European (expressionist brushstrokes and pouring), an Arab Muslim, with his scimitar dangling below his Suprematist breastplate. He is first-, second-, and third-world. He is both the country as a promised landscape, and as a political body, both the ground and the figure of the Leviathan, his arms raised to exercise his sovereign authority with the twin powers of religion and war. (11) But what would a Leviathan look like that contained two countries, two nations, two peoples--in fact, many more than two, a polystability of formal identities? Arab Jews, Christian Arabs, Samaritans, Druze, Bedouins, Europeans, Americans, Ethiopians, Yemenites, South Africans, Ashkenazim, Sephardim. It would look like Palestine-Israel, a monstrous nationalist formation that is struggling to be re-born as a viable bi-national state. I don't say this is the "message" of Abramson's paintings; he could just as easily be trying to show how impossible it is to imagine a bi-national state coming out of this conflict. But it is hard to imagine a figure composed out of the "garbage heap" of Islam, Judaism and Christianity that is not to be read as an icon of their incongruous and violent collision in this singular country.

Edward Said was sometimes regarded as unreasonably utopian in his claim that Israel and Palestine were partners in a tragic symphony that connected them, historically and morally, with irrevocably intertwined destinies. Yet, there would be a coldly realistic story to tell here about the way that Israel's policies of colonization in the West Bank lead inexorably to a denouement in which Israel achieves its dream of " (Greater) Eretz Israel," incorporating all of the West Bank, and in the process turns itself into a de facto hi-national country, if not quite a bi-national state. (12) Incorporation of the Palestinians within the Jewish state, however, necessarily involves the creation of a new body politic, a bi-cultural, bi-racial, bi-lingual entity. This biopolitical hybrid (tacitly acknowledged in murmurs about the "demographic problem" that would make at least half the population of greater Israel non-Jewish) is exactly the monstrous collective body-as-landscape that Abramson has personified in the polystable figure of Elyakim Chalakim I. Not surprising that this figure has two bodies and two heads, one concealed inside the womb-like oval that is the central expressive gesture of the composition, the other limned in the mirage-like image of the entangled, barren trees of life and knowledge growing out of the embryonic form.

If this is allegory, then, it is not the "mechanical allegory" with its transparent "picture language" despised by the Romantics, who preferred "organic symbolism." But it is not "organic symbolism" either. It is a semiotic hybrid, a collision of the mechanical and organic, what William Blake called "sublime allegory, addressed to the intellectual powers." As Jameson puts it:
   If allegory has once again become somehow congenial for us today,
   as over against the massive and monumental unifications of an older
   modernist symbolism or even realism itself, it is because the
   allegorical spirit is profoundly discontinuous, a matter of breaks
   and heterogeneities, of the multiple polysemia of the dream rather
   than the homogeneous representation of the symbol. (73, n. 6)


The bi-national state thus remains for now a dream, or a nightmare, depending on your point of view, while the hi-national country, the administrative entity governed by force as a single landscape and body politic, already exists: Abramson's painting has shown it with uncanny clarity and precision.

I have only considered one painting, and there is so much more to see and to contemplate, not only in Abramson's work but in several generations of Israeli and Palestinian artists and intellectuals--those whom Abramson has called "the desert generation," the title of a group exhibition he organized with Israeli and Palestinian colleagues in 2007, on the 40th anniversary of the 1967 War and the occupation that ensued--who have shared his dream of a promised land welcoming all peoples. This is a dream shared across borders: Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, for example, produced a work reflecting on her recent visit to the area: an empty room, the classic "white cube" of modernist exhibition, with nothing in it except a black slab for a bench, and tiny, almost invisible pencil inscriptions on the walls declaring Israel-Palestine a global center, welcoming all refugees from all nations. (13) In a more satirical vein, the exhibition included Palestinian artist Shuruq Harb's conceptual performance piece, in which all Palestinians undergo a ritual conversion to Judaism on the same day, thereby becoming fully enfranchised citizens of Israel, their right to return to their ancestral homes guaranteed.

To do justice to Abramson's vision, we would have to take account of a whole range of meta-artistic activities that have characterized his career as a political artist, from his work with Artists Without Walls, to his critical writings on how modernist abstraction and the bright landscapes of Zionism veil the dark reality of what Israel is becoming. That is what makes the crescent moon an emblem of the nocturnal underside, the nightmare of Zionism, "only a paper moon" that becomes the sickle, scimitar or dagger of Islamic rage. Or the black square as a modernized Russian icon, at once a holy object and a black hole, an abyss of meaninglessness or the plenitudinous Kaaba or "black box" that stands in Mecca at the vortex of pilgrimage. Or the scrawny vegetative forms, totemic signs of rootedness in the land that he generally portrays as uprooted found objects in trompe l'oeil/ still-life oil paintings. The two most prominent versions of this motif, the tsooba plants and the Rose of Jericho, evoke two sides of the question of rootedness in Israel-Palestine. The samples of flora taken from tsooba are the micro-signifiers of a deserted Palestinian village which, on their initial exhibition were incorporated into a "total work of art" including defaced landscape paintings based on photographs of the disappeared village and secondary impressions of the landscape paintings on newsprint.

The Rose of Jericho, however, strikes me as a symbol of diasporic uprootedness expressing a longing not for land but for a mere drop of water to bring it back to life. This scrawny little plant has a vast herbalistic folklore that connects it to Christ's resurrection in early Christianity, to national resurrection in European Zionism, to the Arabs' description of it as the Hand of Mary (Kaff el Maryam) and the Hand of the Prophet Mohammed (Kaff el Nabi as a symbol of "the magic powers of the 'hamsa,' the palm of hand that fends off the ravages of evil spirits." (14)

It makes me nervous, however, to accede to any kind of instant legibility in the decoding of these vegetative images, which appear at first glance so humble and prosaic, but which are capable of sprouting an infinity of meaningful branches. The Rose of Jericho has been compared, with its complex rhizomatic structure, to the human brain itself. (15) For me, a member of the American "desert generation," it recalls the tumbleweed canonized in song as an image of the cowboy "drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweed," the internal Diaspora and restless migration so fundamental to American experience. Of course it is impossible to enter this herbarium without recalling the totemic plant of Israel itself, the sabra cactus that is "prickly on the outside and sweet on the inside." This plant has become the generic name of the "native" Israeli, born in the Land of Israel and therefore rooted in the ground as a birthright. Small wonder, then, that during the First Intifada of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the marvelous Palestinian Israeli painter Asim Abu Shaqra appropriated the sabra plant as the central motif in a series of highly expressive canvases avidly purchased by Israeli collectors. Abu Shaqra portrayed the sabra, however, not as rooted in the ground, but in a prosaic clay pot that turned it into an ambiguous sign of transplantation and portability. For Palestinians, I am told, the sabra is not a highly symbolic plant, but a utilitarian object, delicious to eat, and useful as a hedge or fence. It becomes slightly dizzying, then, to consider that the sabra is the humble Palestinian equivalent of the minimalist, brutalist gray wall that now divides while conquering the entire countryside. Perhaps it is time to echo Ronald Reagan's challenge to Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall," and replace it with the porous, organic hedge of the sabras on both sides of the innumerable and mutable borders that cut through Israel-Palestine.

In assembling this melange of allegorical elements, I do not mean to herd Abramson into the corral of "symbolist," "modernist," "conceptual," "postmodernist" or any of the innumerable ready-made labels of the international art world. Abramson's work means many things to many different audiences and struggles with many different art languages. And his own personal narrative, not that of a sabra, but of a transplanted Jew whose liberal parents had struggled against South Africa's apartheid regime and established health care clinics for that country's discriminated populations, has to give us pause. What can it mean for a person with this background to find himself in an "Israeli Utopia," a site which he critically portrays as a sunlit apartment complex drawn from real-estate brochures, surrounded by an abstract color field landscape, devoid of vegetation or people? (16) How can he bear to hear the Palestinian re-naming of the euphemistically described "security fence" or "separation barrier" as an "apartheid wall" that segregates the Palestinians into Bantustans?

It must be in moments such as these that his vision turns toward ruins, darkness and the chaos of a post-apocalyptic destruction site. In a remarkable series of drawings and paintings entitled "The Pile," executed between 2002 and 2004, Abramson engaged with the German Jewish painter Felix Nussbaum, who was murdered in Auschwitz, leaving behind his monumental last painting entitled The Triumph of Death (1944). In an essay about the painting Abramson declares:
   If a History of Art exists it is lying right there, in Nussbaum's
   painting--in that stinking and non-hierarchical pile of Classical,
   Neoclassical and Modernist debris.., under the dancing feet of the
   angels of death in their chilling celebration. We are all Felix
   Nussbaum, painters without an audience, giving silent testimony in
   our underground studios. (17)


This is coming very close to the heart of darkness that underlies the bright, sunlit vistas and nocturnal fantasies of the Zionist project. Jerusalem, Abramson's home city, is probably the most staggeringly complex pile of ruins in the world, a labyrinth of contending cultures and civilizations each with its own archaeological narrative. But Abramson, like Nussbaum, refuses all the narratives, portraying a general collapse that incorporates every architectural style amidst a chaotic tangle of fluted pillars, Jerusalem stone, and modernist reinforced concrete, its steel rods winding through the debris. And in one particularly moving charcoal drawing, Felix's Pile (2004), which serves as the endpapers for the exhibition catalog of these works at the Felix-Nussbaum-Haus in Osnabruck, Germany, blank voice balloons float amidst the ruins: no voices, no words. Only the empty index of a ghostly, vanished humanity, perhaps an exhalation of a sigh, or the "stinking" vapors that arise from the garbage heap of history.

Half of Israel-Palestine already lives amidst the ruins of their country, subjected to a cruel occupation that threatens to crush any possibility of normal life, much less political self-determination and nationhood. The other half lives in a schizophrenic state of complacency and paranoia, punctuated by moments of panic when their bubble is punctured by a rocket attack and yet another military assault is launched against the civilian population of the West Bank or Gaza. If we must, finally, put Abramson's art in a niche, I would call it "realism," enlivened by a surrealist attunement to the allegorical saturation of the most ordinary objects and scenes in his environment. There is also a strain of what I want to call "vitalism" in his work, which refuses the finality of death and destruction. Like the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, this painter wants to make love to the deeply problematic entity known as Palestine-Israel. Abramson has said that his relation to painting is something like that of a necrophiliac, entering the dead body of painting with the aim of bringing it back to life: "instead of engaging in a pathologist's discourse around the corpse of art, I preferred to enter it, to touch its tissues, to observe its cavities, and invent myself and the world from within." (18) Or as one Israeli critic has put it, "Abramson's original urge was to create a body and revive it, to breathe life into the corpse" (Daniella Talmor, n. 2). There is a curious way, then, in which Abramson's art may be hearkening to the voice of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the rabidly anti-semitic dictator of Iran, who famously declared Israel "a stinking corpse." Larry Abramson is an artist capable of listening to this enemy not in order to accept his utterly contemptible views, but to glimpse what lies ahead for a people that betrays its historic moral mission, the truly universalist vision of Zionism. Since Jerusalem, and with it Israel-Palestine, is still the geopolitical navel of the world, Abramson's bi-national allegory contains an urgent lesson for the rest of us as well.

University of Chicago

(1.) I have learned, however, that this blemish is a Duchampian accident, perhaps a flaw in the photographic reproduction in the catalogue in which I re-viewed this painting. However, Abramson tells me that Malevich's original is now developing cracks, just like the old masters, and that his current returns to the black square are consequently exploring the issue of cracks and flaws. Sometimes chance leads the way to design.

(2.) The artist, as quoted in Daniella Talmor, "Eventus Nocturnus," Larry Abramson: Eventus Noctumus, trans. Hanita Rosenbluth (Haifa Museum of Art, 2001) 110. See also Gannit Ankori, "Bodies of Knowledge: The Art of Larry Abramson," Larry Abramson: Eventus Nocturnus (Haifa Museum of Art, 2001).

(3.) Elyakim Chalakim is a name invented by the Israeli licensees of The Garbage Pail Kids, an American series of trading cards released in 1985 by the Topps Company, depicting grossly deformed kids and designed to parody the Cabbage Patch Kids dolls. In the English original the character dubbed Elyakim Chalakim was called Second Hand Rose, or Trashed Tracy. As chance had it, the name Elyakim (literally, in Hebrew, meaning "God will raise up, resurrect") Chalakim (in Hebrew "parts, pieces") could be read: God will resurrect the pieces. Even though the Israeli translator was probably only looking for a first name to rhyme with Chalakim, the resultant Elyakim Chalakim brings to mind the Kabbalist notion of "tikkun," the mending of the shattered vessels that contained the divine light. In 1990 Abramson allegorically proclaimed Elyakim Chalakim "the great artist of the future," by virtue of his will to "raise himself out of the surrounding wilderness of refuse and rehabilitate himself as a new axis of vertical meaning," as quoted in Gideon Ofrat, "The Death of Elyakim," Larry Abramson: Eventus Noctumus, trans. Peretz Hidron (Haifa Museum of Art, 2001) 102.

(4.) From e-mail correspondence with the artist, February 22, 2010.

(5.) I have many reasons for using the phrase "Israel Palestine" (or "Palestine-Israel") to designate a hyphenated country that, from one point of view, only exists in the utopian image of a hi-national state, but from another point of view actually exists, and has existed for over half a century as a single administrative, governmental entity in which a population resides in a condition of radical inequality. But this would require an essay in itself.

(6.) See Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad: or The New Pilgrim's Progress, 1869.

(7.) Despite the large body of commentary on Abramson's work by Israeli critics and art historians, there has been little attention to the centrality of the political in his "abstract" and symbolic works. The political meaning of the crescent, which has been part of his work for the last twenty five years, has "never been seriously regarded," according to the artist. E-mail correspondence, February 6, 2010.

(8.) Fredric Jameson, "Third World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism," Social Text 15 (Autumn 1986): 65-88.

(9.) Abramson's work tsooba, made in 1993-1994 and exhibited in 1995 at the Kibbutz Art Gallery in Tel Aviv, was a groundbreaking critical dialogue with the role of abstract painting in the erasure of Palestinian memory from the landscape and its representations, tsooba included 38 25 X 25 cm oil on canvas landscape paintings after a photograph of the site of a deserted Palestinian village, 38 impressions of the wet landscape paintings on newspaper, and 13 still life paintings after samples of flora taken from the site.

(10.) When Golda Meir notoriously claimed that "there is no such thing as a Palestinian people," she meant that the native inhabitants of pre-1948 Palestine did not amount to a national entity, but rather to a loosely linked network of tribal communities. Of course a half-century of suppression and occupation has had the predictable effect of turning the Palestinians into a people with nationalistic aspirations of self-determination and emancipation, something that the Ottoman and British empire were never quite able to accomplish. Palestinian nationalism may thus be seen as one of the most notably ironic achievements of Zionism.

(11.) This figure of the sovereign with raised arms was famously discussed by Meyer Schapiro in "Themes of Action and Themes of State," Lecture 4 in Romanesque Architectural Sculpture: The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2006) 97-122. See also my essay, "State of the Union: Jesus Comes to Abu Ghraib," in Chining Terror: The War of Images, 9/11 to the Present (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2011).

(12.) See Saree Makdisi, Palestine Inside Out (New York: Norton, 2009), for a sober assessment of the convergence between the utopian notion of a hi-national state and the right wing Zionist determination to control all of Eretz Israel. Of course the latter fantasy generally involves a tacit understanding that the Palestinians must leave the country.

(13.) This piece was first shown in "The Political Imaginary," a retrospective of Bruguera's work held at the Neuberger Museum, State University of New York, Purchase, January 28-April 11, 2010, curated by Helaine Posner.

(14.) Tamar Manor-Friedman, "The Rose of Jericho: A Dormant Parable," Larry Abramson: The Rose of Jericho, trans. Peretz Kidron (Jerusalem Print Workshop, 2004) xiii.

(15.) Discussed at a symposium, "Art of the Brain," bringing together artists and brain researchers from the Hebrew University's Interdisciplinary Center for Neural Computation, held in Kibbutz Cabri in 2004, where "the scientists find great resemblance between his images of the 'Rose of Jericho' and the form of brain cells." See "Chronology" in Larry Abramson: Paintings 1975-2010 (Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2010) 335.

(16.) I must mention here the work of a gifted young Palestinian artist, Khaled Jarrar, who has produced a series of glossy brochures with suburban bungalows urging people to immigrate to Palestine where they will find it easy to obtain the Palestinian equivalent of an American "green card." Jarrar is also a principal subject of my essay, "Migration, Law, and the Image: Beyond the Veil of Ignorance," Images of Illegalized Immigration, eds. Bischoff, Falk and Kafehsy (Bielefeld, Germany: transcript, 2010) 13-30, which takes up his video work on the sewer underpasses that Palestinians must traverse in order to bypass the Jews-only "security roads" that crisscross the West Bank linking up with the settlements.

(17.) Quoted in Galia Bar Or, "'We Are All Felix Nussbauin': On Larry Abramson's Pile," in Trummerhaufen/ The Pile, trans. Richard Flantz (Felix-Nussbaum-Haus, Osnabruck, 2005) 21.

(18.) Larry Abramson, "A Letter from the Underground," Studio 53, May-June 1994, page 34 [Hebrew].
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Author:Mitchell, W.J.T.
Publication:Studies in Romanticism
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Dec 22, 2010
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