Mending a Fragmented View of the Middle East
Amid the turmoil, violence, and political wrangling in and about Israel and the Middle East, perhaps there is one point upon which all sides can agree: the road to peace is hardly smooth or simple.
Cynics may prefer to look away from the generations-old problem. Realists may point to an exhaustive political process and the one-step-forward, half-step-back approach to diplomatic resolutions. Idealists like Tirtza Even, however, aim for the proverbial outside-the-box alternative.
The Sisyphus-like challenge for Even—a video artist raised in Jerusalem and at odds with the Israeli occupation of Palestine—is to provoke a discussion about the agonizing conflict devoid of clichés and prejudices. Even is an assistant professor in the University of Michigan School of Art & Design. A Fulbright scholar, she has taught video and multimedia production, experimental and documentary film theory. Her body of work explores complex social and political dynamics in volatile lands, including Turkey, Spain, Germany, the United States, and, of course, Israel/Palestine.
In one of her recent works, Once A Wall, or a Ripple Remains (2008), Even presents an unconventional alternative for depicting the Israel/Palestine conflict that effectively offers a meditation on the need for a more broad-minded understanding; an alternative that would allow Palestinians and Jews to see each other as dynamic human beings rather than view their shared situation through a stereotypical lens.
“I try to offer the two groups a path to a dialogue,” said Even. She believes if each side sees the other’s side and their own partial perspective, there could be an opening for a broader discussion about shared issues.
Even’s nuanced and subtle video artistry creates an intimate and highly personal landscape. Entering her lush and painterly videos, however, isn’t as simple as sitting back and pushing the play button on a VCR. Even’s work draws on multiple perspectives and haunting, dense narratives. Utilizing the latest animation and video editing techniques, Even’s imagery is utterly engaging, and begs the question: What’s going on?
It’s at this stark, yet essential, point where she begins to make her case.
“I want to make people aware of how compartmentalized their views are,” she said. “I don’t know if dialog between Israelis and Palestinians is possible, but I’m trying nonetheless to show our perspectives are layered (broken, biased) and dynamic.”