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Re: Base Camp Balata, an exhibition at The Spitz Gallery London u...

From: SF
Category: Art
Date: 28 July 2005


I suspect the unconnected "aside" to this review is no doubt yet another poor attempt by JJ, the author of the aside, to have a personal and childish dig at the one of the main organisers of the exhibition, namely, this reviewer who, as he knows, happens to be of Chinese origin. The assumption that all people of Jewish origin are zionist has no connection whatsover to the exhibition unless JJ is trying to tenuously link his assumption to the fact that the photographs have been taken by Palestinians living in the West Bank. Relevance of assumption to exhibition??

Or perhaps it is because JJ is reacting to a chain of hysterical, contradictory and poorly researched emails which he has seen from someone who received (indirectly) an invitation to the exhibition. The invitation contained the dangerously innocuous words: "An Exhibition of Photographs by Children in the West Bank"; nothing more. The emails from the aggrieved recipient of the invitation were packed with assumptions, many of the fundamental ones being factually incorrect, for example, that the exhibition was funded by a Palestinian organisation (it was funded by a British organisation), that the organiser is an "ISMer" (ie. International Solidarity Movement) and that the organiser is Australian (the email diatribe draws a muddled analogy between the alleged colonial ethnic cleansing of native Australians and the situation between the Jewish and the Palestinians in Israel and Palestine). The writer also makes assumptions about the strength of certain political views held by the organiser having never spoken with her about them. The emails are also contradictory, for example, on one hand seeming to say that the treatment by the Jewish of the Palestinians is unreasonably yet on other other hand, saying anyone who criticises them is confused and supporting criminals. If WWR readers are interested in reading the emails for themselves to form their own views, I would be happy to post them on WWR together with the responses and would invite comment and discussion.

Apologies for stating the obvious but it goes without saying that not all Jewish people's views on Israel are discounted as biased but when they are, it is probably because, unsurprisingly, they are incredibly biased. If they feel as if their views are not being listened to, there is nothing to stop them from organising their own exhibition of photos taken by kids living in Jewish settlements, for example. If JJ finds it so unbearingly annoying then why doesn't he do something about it rather than criticising others when they actually take action and do something.

The children took photographs of images which they found interesting about their lives in the camp. If JJ found no particular beauty or originality in the photos then so be it. Many others did including the BBC who will putting some of the photographs from the exhibition on BBC online later today. Be sure that a link to the BBC website will be made available in the next day or two so WWR readers can look at the photos for themselves and see if beauty in the photos is beheld through their eyes.

One of the main aims of the exhibition was to give the children involved in the project the opportunity to use a camera as many of them had never so much as held a camera as well as the opportunity to express themselves through photography. It was an exercise which the children enjoyed and embraced with enthusiasm and a sense of fun. The children were not briefed to go for "originality"; it was not an exercise in moulding the children to become technical artists or award winning photographers after a two day workshop. If you're only looking for originality, individuality and photographic artistry, then you could try the National Portrait Gallery. The Base Camp Balata photography exhibition represents a handful of the work which the children living in the camp produced and which they enjoyed producing. The photographs have been exhibited as one way of showing what life in the largest refugee camp in the West Bank is like. Many people living in England seem to have no idea as to what these refugee camps look like despite knowing that they exist and perhaps through seeing these photographs they will gain a small insight and awareness into this world.

I do not think that the body of photographs in the exhibition focus on the "utter misery" of those living in the camp (although it's a bloody grim place from what I saw of it). Photos of boys bouncing on a mattress or kids crowding around each other wanting their photograph taken do not conjure up a sense of misery in my mind but a sense of childlikeness which I think we can all relate to. If there are images which depict a life of utter misery then such a depiction is equally valid. Some of the children living in the camp probably have not been fortunate enough to retain their "childish vision".

Information about the captions: they were written by the children who took part in the project and were translated into English by one of the Palestinian volunteers who was assisting with the project. The organisers of the exhibition did not edit the captions in any way. I like the captions.

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