Arts: Justice Matters: Exhibit Examines Justice in Palestine By PETER SELZSpecial to the Planet

Friday December 02, 2005

An exhibition of limited edition fine prints addressing the transgressions of justice in Palestine is currently on view at the Berkeley Art Center. Fourteen multinational and multiethnic artists communicate their concerns in their approach. 

There is a globe, dripping with blood, and held by two bloody hands, called “Do We Have the Right to Remain Silent?” by Mildred Howard, an African-American artist, best known for her poignant installations. The San Francisco painter Holly Wong depicts a grieving old man who holds a child with blank eyes in his arms. The artist does not let us know whether the small child is dying or dead. Lisa Kokin, also from San Francisco, shows a Hebrew copy book, the kind she had probably used, with a bookmark that denotes an emp ty land. This premise is signified by the rubbed-out faces of Arabs in the pages.  

Ayed Arafa, a Palestinian living in a refugee camp, pictures a woman and child, who seem to be made of stone, much like the wall of which they appear to be a part, evoking their semi-permanent confinement. Next to it in the show we see a black and white print by the San Francisco artist Eric Drooker, known for his New Yorker covers, of a muscular young man swinging a big hammer at the Israeli Wall of Shame. 

The New York a rtist Jacqueline Salloum is represented by four short films and by a diptych addressing Caterpillar. In one panel we see the company’s PR image: pictures of beneficial work, captioned “Social Responsibility.” This is contrasted to the photographs of Cater pillar bulldozers destroying houses. Here the caption points to 1,300 Palestinian homes and a multitude of olive trees that have been destroyed by the bulldozers of the occupying power. This sardonic work stands in contrast to a powerful print by John Hal aka, a Palestinian-American who teaches at San Diego University. Halaka’s “Passage to Exile #1” is a boat sailing the open sea. The passenger of this death ship is a red body which turns into a giant red flame which takes over the picture space. 

It is no t surprising that, as I have been told, many individuals and groups have taken offense at this exhibition, which shows committed political art. The works on view take a stand against the often brutal acts committed by the occupying power against the Pales tinian people. Misinterpreting the works, the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center have, according to the Jewish Bulletin, claimed that the work could provoke terrorist acts and is anti-Semitic. But many Jews, including myself, as well a s progressive Israelis, do believe that work that is censorious of abuses of power, no matter who carries them out, is subject to critical comment, especially by artists who believe that “Justice Matters.” 


The exhibition “Justice Matters: Artists Consid er Palestine” will be at the Berkeley Art Center, at 1275 Walnut St., until Dec. 17. The center is open Wed.-Sun. noon-5 p.m. Admission is free. Several concurrent lectures and panel discussion have been scheduled. For more information, call 644-6893 or s ee www.berkeleyartcenter.org.› 


Photograph by Jakob Schiller  

“Apartheid Wall” by Eric Drooker, one of the pieces in the “Justice Matters”  

exhibition at the Berkeley Art Center.l