For Act 33 at Nivell Zero of the Fundació Suñol, Giuliana Racco and Matteo Guidi propose an exhibition, curated by Herman Bashiron Mendolicchio, related to a central phase of the process: the movement and non-movement, hence presence and absence, of the stone and the artist respectively. From November 11, 2015 to January 23, 2016, Nivell Zero is hosting a selection of works tracing the core themes of context, movement, negotiation and desire, giving form to distinct moments of a process that managed to move across strict geo-political limits, while keeping, to this day, its future open.
The exhibition begins with an enlarged photograph and map from In Between Camps, a two-day walk-piece across a stretch of land in Palestine (2012) following the ground embedded stone traces of an ancient Roman aqueduct, built to carry water from a Herodian pool (located in the Hebron area) to the ancient city of Jerusalem. The simple daily practice of ‘taking a stroll’ was extended over an expansive and contended territory as an immersive experience concerning landscape, geography, history, and politics. This search for the ruins from a prior era of colonisation, using a map dating from yet another period of colonialism, was interrupted by the appearance of a giant quarry.
Next, the artists opened and framed a crucial correspondence: two postcards, aluminium foil, pages ripped from a novel supporting micro SD card adhered with bits of electrical tape and accompanied by numbers and dates. These are the contents, crafted by the project’s camerawoman, of the envelope sent from Giuliana Racco to the Matteo Guidi –from Jerusalem to Barcelona– as a tactic for bypassing restrictive border security measures. The contents of the memory cards provided the material for the production of the video on view.
Nearby, a frame presents a letter sent from the Head of the Union of Stone and Marble Workers (Palestine) to the Director of the Hebron Chamber of Commerce asking for the issuance –considering the artistic and pedagogical implications concerning issues related to refugee rights, mobility and Palestine– of a certificate of origin in order to bypass an exportation law which prohibits the trade of raw stone blocks. Blue ink: Response from the Director issuing the certificate of origin and customs facilitation for the ‘purpose of art’.
Central to the exhibition is the video Leish la’a? (Why not?), which traces the movement of the 22-tonne block of stone from its carving out of the quarry near Hebron, its transportation through Arroub refugee camp to the factory where it was prepared for exportation, across checkpoints to Ashdod Port and finally Barcelona. Interspersed with moments of everyday life across the south West Bank, including scenes presenting the ubiquitousness of stones in the landscape and ludic activities, plays on the absurdity of the initial proposal of attempting to contemporaneously move a subject and a massive object from the same territory, with the notable absence of the subject.
In the remotest space of the exhibition, a video presents The Artist and subject of the process, Ibrahim Jawabreh, continuously running away and toward the camera only to finish, time and time again, against the lens and therefore the screen, blocked within an eternal loop. The sequence was shot in 2012, upon Jawabreh’s request, and was rediscovered in an archive precisely at the moment Guidi and Racco were searching for a way to represent the bureaucratic limbo in which Jawabreh found himself, unable to reach Barcelona contemporaneously with the stone.
The interior space closes with a table of photographs, objects and drawings analysing the gesture of stone-throwing as a projection into the future, an act of resistance, and a ludic activity merge with an investigation on the etymology of desire (L. de siderium: from the stars). A consultation with experts in Greek, Arabic and Medieval astronomical maps, led to the trace of a disappeared version of a non-canonical Hercules (Greek interpretation of the kneeling figure constellation) launching stones, opening the space for a rereading of the notions and desires we project onto the stars.
The 22-tonne block of stone was cut into 12 pieces which were then sent to two sites: half are in the Fundació Suñol and the other half are installed in Pla de Palau, a public space that was once the entrance gate for goods and people arriving in medieval Barcelona by sea. The cut stone embodies the spatial and logistical limits and obstacles that had to be overcome to move the stone to both places. And the two locations reflect the duality at the heart of the project: open/closed, movement/stagnation, acceptance/rejection, object/subject. 4 of the 6 blocks stand upright in the Fundaciò Suñol courtyard evoking a barrier across which it is nonetheless possible to negotiate one’s movements; within, two blocks become benches upon which to rest and view the video. Meanwhile, a semi-circular/half-moon-like structure graces Pla de Palau, providing a space for resting, contemplation and meeting.