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Title: Picasso in Palestine
Other Titles: بيكاسو في فلسطين
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: vzw Mark (A Prior Magazine), School of Arts (Ghent)
Abstract: In 1948, three months after the declaration of the state of Israel, Pablo Picasso attended the Intellectual Congress in Wroclaw, Poland. It was a congress organised soon after the Second World War at a time in which Wroclaw was still recovering from being German. After the Second World War, Wroclaw became Polish as if for the first time, and the Communist Party organised the congress in celebration of the triumph over the Nazis and the establishment of a new kind of Polishness. At this conference, which was the first one in a series of many, Picasso drew his peace dove. At every other conference after this, they would claim that the dove was drawn there, but in fact Picasso had used it already for some time as a symbol that he promoted within the Communist Party, reinterpreting it from the Christian divine understanding of saving an individual soul, into saving a community in the best of the communist tradition. Today, we identify the peace dove specifically promoted by Picasso as a universal symbol for peace. But an artistic symbol does not just become a symbol, or even an icon, overnight. It’s not only talent or the ‘right’ moment in the market that will guarantee success. Something else has to happen, something that may be translated as an authenticity of spirit or a real desire for change. Picasso in Palestine possesses this desire for change but also articulates questions: are we only celebrating the ‘unique’ here in a way that somehow tries to normalise an extraordinary situation? Are we discussing a project that is obsessed with proving its own success, or could it be a genuine attempt to do something positive, something that could possibly fail at any time? Slavoj Zizek, who visited Picasso in Palestine, spoke in Ramallah about the danger of stressing the big events, the bombings, the terror and the military incursions as it might detour us from what is really at stake. According to him, it is precisely not the big events that serve as shock effects for the media that should hold our attention. Rather we should look at the procedures and bureaucracy that fill the everyday lives of people in the region. How do they effect and control what happens here, “what happens in Palestine when nothing is happening?” Perhaps the same applies to the collection of the Van Abbemuseum, of which Picasso’s Buste de Femme is a part. What happens with a collection when nothing is happening? Is it simply a dull moment or can it show us something more authentic? It seems that in these moments of dullness, there is actually an amazing potential for revealing the reason and purpose of an organisation, and for showing the networks that form the foundation of life. This potential applies whether we are talking about the West Bank as a whole, Picasso in Palestine as a project, the museum and the academy as institutions or the motivations of everyone involved
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