The A.M. Qattan Foundation organized, recently, a seminar on the theme of its upcoming exhibition, "Subcontracted Nations". The exhibition is planned to be held by the Foundation’s Public Programme during the new building inauguration ceremony in Ramallah, in October 2017.
The exhibition’s curators, Tina Sherwell and YazidAnani, took part in the seminar, as well as a group of academics, artists and art amateurs in Ramallah. A number of participants from Gaza also joined in through Skype.
Sherwell and Anani presented a number of issues relevant to the exhibition theme, as well as the various formats of the exhibited materials and the exhibition’s final form. Anani raised many questions around the exhibition theme, including interrogations about “our current situation as Palestinians”. He added, “This exhibition is not exclusively relevant to the Palestinian cause. It is equally valid for other relations around the world.”
As explained in its introductory sheet, the exhibition seeks to “evoke multiple questions around the contemporary concept of ‘nation’ and how it relates to societies and to political and economic neoliberal constructs. It looks into historical turns in the notion of ‘state’, its public service policies and the different political forms regulating its relationship with the people.”
Commenting on the exhibition, sociologist and researcher Jamil Hilal said, “When policy collapses and becomes practically inexistent, culture in all its fields takes on a very important role. There lies the significance of this project”. He added, “Thanks to its democratic content, culture must therefore counter a number of present phenomena, including neoliberal thought and consumerist tendencies.”
Dr. Abaher al-Saqqa, a lecturer at Birzeit University, noted that the exhibition’s title is both catchy and problematic. He further explained, “Catchy in that it’s an outside-the-box idea; problematic in terms of the nature of the state it addresses.” During the discussion, al-Saqqa also called to “topple the ‘development from the top’ paradigm and implement the subcontracting model from within society itself.”
Furthermore, Dr. Rana Barakat, a Birzeit University professor of history and contemporary Arab studies, said, “The obsession with dismantling the national state exists in many places around the world, but we must pay special attention to the Palestinian context, to the relationship Palestinian society has with the notion of state, and to how we envisage social structures, separate from any problems specific to the national state.”
The exhibition raises various questions that seek to create a dialogue through audience participation. These include questions such as, “If states lose their hold on managing and producing basic welfare state services, like housing, healthcare and social security, due to privatization, how can we maintain faith in conventional political structures and parliamentary democracy to ensure the highest level of welfare services? What does citizenship mean under such circumstances? What is the role of democracy when political parties seek after all to form alliances and partnerships with the private sector to generate profit and ensure their logistic continuity?”
Submissions in the form of photographs, videos, texts or objects are accepted until 15 April 2017 and will be coordinated by the exhibition curators, according to their nature, theme and number. To view the exhibition introductory sheet, click here.