Magazine article Artforum International

Dor Guez

Magazine article Artforum International

Dor Guez

Article excerpt

KW INSTITUTE FOR CONTEMPORARY ART

Coming days after the Israeli cabinet's vote to require non-Jews seeking citizenship to affirm Israel as a Jewish state, Dor Guez's artist's talk on the occasion of his first major European exhibition proved critical to understanding the significance of his work. Even as the Jerusalem-born artist declared his video- and photography-based project to be more historical than political, the audience's impassioned engagement with questions of identity politics that evening confirmed that a part of this work's power lies in its capacity to stir conversation and debate. In tracing a narrative of the 1948 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian city of Al-Lydd (since renamed Lod) and its aftermath, the exhibition explored the complex history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the perspective of the town's Arab Christian minority, through the testimonies of three generations of Guez's own family.

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The talk was crucial because the artist's remarkably unremarkable aesthetic subdues the inherently explosive nature of his subject. The spare domestic interiors in which he conducts most of his interviews, for example, emphasize the everydayness of this experience of living between multiple cultures and maintaining incongruous affiliations. Though one might expect these stories of never quite feeling at home within Israeli society to trigger an empathetic response, most of them are surprisingly unaffecting. Guez's grandfather--who, in July 13, 2009, matter-of-factly describes the day the nascent Israeli Defense Force invaded Al-Lydd--admits a conscious intention to remain unsentimental. Evidently habituated to the changes in the conditions under which he lives, he avoids political disputes even as he retraces his personal history through the places in the former Palestinian ghetto--including the Greek Orthodox Church--where he and his family were forced to live for years following the invasion. …

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