Creating people's geographies
By Assaf Uni | Ha’aretz | Last update – 01:46 06/09/2006
LONDON – A British architects’ association is calling on the 10th International Architecture Biennale in Venice to consider keeping an Israeli pavilion from participating in this year’s exhibition, which opens Sunday.
“We request that the Biennale Committee consider withdrawing the Israeli entry as being provocative and counterproductive to the aims of this Biennale, and particularly distasteful in the context of the aftermath of an ugly, unnecessary war and wanton destruction of neighboring Lebanon, and a continuing one-sided war in Gaza,” the group Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine wrote in a petition to exhibition organizers.
The British organization also requested a contribution from the Palestinians, saying: “Whatever you do about the Israeli participation, we would like the organizers to consider asking for a Palestinian contribution, highlighting the historic and ongoing displacement of the Palestinian people.”
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Society of Architects has sent a similar letter to Biennale organizers, asking for the cancellation of the Israeli display. One of the reasons the group cites is that Israeli architects are “fully engaged” in a “system of oppression and control.”
As of press time, Biennale officials had not responded to the call to keep the Israelis out. The architecture exhibition – part of the Venice Biennale, which also includes other art forms – is the leading event in the architecture world, and lasts until November 19.
The British group argues that the Israeli display serves propaganda purposes, and ignores the Palestinians’ role as the primary victim of the conflict with Israel. The exhibit, called “Life Saver: Typology of Commemoration in Israel,” focuses on the phenomenon of memorialization in Israel, and depicts 15 structures established in the memory of those who died in Israeli wars and the Holocaust.
Israeli architect Tula Amir, who curated the project, writes: “Justification of Israel’s wars provides legitimization of the blood that has been spilled and is liable to be spilled in the future.”
Jewish-British architect Abe Hayeem, who is behind the petition, uses Amir’s words to explain why the exhibit should be withdrawn: It essentially justifies Israel’s wars instead of criticizing them, he said. Amir, however, said the issue was addressed in the description accompanying the exhibit.