Q&A: Behind the Scenes of 'Christian Palestinian Archive' Exhibition

April 14, 2016

On April 7, the GC's James Gallery unveiled a new exhibition, "Christian Palestinian Archive: A Project by Dor Guez." An Israeli photographer and video artist, Guez (right) founded the Archive in 2009 after discovering a suitcase filled with old photographs under his grandparents' bed.

On April 7, the GC's James Gallery unveiled a new exhibition, "Christian Palestinian Archive: A Project by Dor Guez."

An Israeli photographer and video artist, Guez (right) founded the Archive in 2009 after discovering a suitcase filled with old photographs under his grandparents' bed.

365 Fifth recently spoke with Ph.D. student Chelsea Haines (Art History), curator of the exhibition and Presidential Fellow at the Center for the Humanities, and with Professor Katherine Carl (Art History), curator of the James Gallery and deputy director of the Center for the Humanities, about this intriguing project.


Q: Could you explain the origins of the exhibition?

Haines: The exhibition tells the story of the artist's family, and especially his grandmother, Samira Monayer, a Palestinian woman who grew up in Jaffa in the 1930s. His family's photo albums are the basis for the project, and through them he narrates her story both before and after the declaration of Israel in 1948.

Samira's personal story becomes an entry point into the history of Israel-Palestine and provides a perspective usually not discussed in histories of the region.


Q: Why is the exhibition so important now?

Haines: The political situation in Israel-Palestine can be extremely polarizing. The exhibition addresses nuances of history and politics in the region that are usually not discussed, in particular the role of religious and ethnic minorities.
The intent of the project is to have visitors question previously held beliefs, and think critically about how history is told and represented. At this moment, these minority stories are extremely important for providing an alternative perspective in a highly contentious political environment.


Q: Why is this exhibition particularly suited to the James Gallery?

Carl: Our two spring exhibitions resulted from their curators' long-term research on contemporary art in the Middle East. All of the exhibitions this season have examined the role of archives in contemporary culture. The projects grew out of the James Gallery's mission to investigate, through the work of artists, the topics and methods that are part of the work of scholars in many disciplines at the Graduate Center and throughout CUNY.

For example, this spring the gallery worked with students and faculty in Theater, the Globalization Committee, Art History, Environmental Psychology, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Jewish Studies, Committee on Science Studies, Anthropology, English, Film Studies, Middle East & Middle Eastern American Center (MEMEAC), Public Programs, and the Center for the Humanities, among others, to inform the exhibitions and create programs that featured their scholarship.

"Christian Palestinian Archive: A Project by Dor Guez" runs through Saturday, June 4. Admission is free.