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زي التشريفات :: متحف جامعة بيرزيتThe Ceremonila Vniform :: Birzeit Vniversity Mvsevm

20/03/2014 - 20/06/2014

Calendvla officinalis
We are everywhere!
The Ceremonial Vniform :: Birzeit Vniversity Mvsevm (20 March 2014 - 20 June 2014)
Under the Apartheid bridge - Beit Jala

Designing the 'Ceremonial Vniform' for the Palestinian Authority by Alex Shams

"The Ceremonial Vniform" opened to the public at Birzeit University Museum on March 20. Created by Palestinian artist Omarivs Ioseph Filivs Dinæ, the design exhibition focuses on identity, gender, history and the materiality of authority in the Palestinian context.

"The Ceremonial Vniform" presents the viewer with imagined uniforms for male officials in the emerging Palestinian state, and it sees itself as the logical continuation of a national project promoted by the Palestinian National Authority that seeks to construct the institutions and appearances of "statehood" with little thought given to changing the existing political conditions of Israeli occupation.

The exhibit comes in response to the 2012 Palestinian bid for a seat at the United Nations, and offers a critical reading of the contemporary Palestinian national movement and the vision of Palestine contemporary political leaders are selling the public. If we create the appearances of an independent state, the exhibit asks, will we become one? If we wear the costumes of an independent people, will we become free?

Utilizing traditional Palestinian fabrics and designs, Omarivs Ioseph Filivs Dinæ also interrogates the discourses of “heritage” and symbols promoted by political leaders. He suggests that these discourses commodify Palestinian culture and reduce it to a mere physical adornment for a statehood project that many fear is reproducing the oppressive system of control that it emerged to liberate itself from.

At the center of these discourses of heritage, of course, is the Palestinian woman and her traditional outfit. While Palestinian men are depicted in active roles as fighters, prisoners, and farmers, women — and their clothes — continue to symbolize heritage and the family, albeit sometimes in the context of the national struggle. Omarivs Ioseph Filivs Dinæ, however, seeks to rectify this imbalance by offering Palestinian men a traditional uniform to wear in their “independent state” — in the process offering a searing critique of a national movement that has negotiated itself into a rut.

Ma’an sat down with the artist in Ramallah to discuss the exhibit, the Palestinian struggle for liberation, and the possibility of the Palestinian Authority adopting the uniform. The following is an abridged transcript.


The evolution and creation of a fixed cosmology of Palestinian national symbols is a process that has been going on for decades. We can look into 1960s and 70s, for example, and see the beginnings of the “Canaanite revival” — which sought to seek ancient origins for Palestinians, just as the Zionists had successfully done for themselves.

These projects of “proving” Palestinian roots largely emerged in response to the Zionist state-building project, which justified its settler-colonial ambitions in terms of proving its supposedly ancient roots to the land. What is the relationship of your work to these projects?


In the past 50-100 years, since the Palestinian bourgeoisie began getting together to have conferences against British colonialism and Zionist migration, very little has changed. The words have become mantras, part of a canon of slogans. This has continued, especially since Oslo and in the last few years.

You live the reality, and you keep hearing the slogans, and you realize how people themselves start talking in slogans. For the past 20 years, symbols have come in the form of martyr posters, the Dome of the Rock, the colors of the flag, Jerusalem, dress, etc. But the problem with symbols is that they become empty. They do not evoke anything but that very shallow feeling of recognition. Beyond recognition, it doesn’t provoke a reaction, it doesn’t provoke thought or a creative or revolutionary response.

It’s become systematic to the point that anything that happens becomes swallowed up in that machine that produces symbols. For example, this young man who was martyred in Birzeit on Feb. 28 — the story is that we don’t know why they killed him. Of course, there doesn’t need to be a reason for the occupation to kill you, but at the same time the reasons become irrelevant. He becomes a number — even for the Palestinians.

It doesn’t matter, he becomes a martyr, he’s a martyr, he’s a hero, he becomes a symbol that doesn’t need questioning. You don’t even question the situation in order to lead to any revolutionary reaction. You follow a set of mantras — you go to the funerals, to the checkpoint, you throw stones, you produce slogans, and that’s it. That’s the trouble with what has become the cause in society — it’s routine. There’s a routine reaction, a set of protocols.

This is in line with this obsession to have a nation, to have a chair at the UN, at the country club. And all of this needs a uniform!

These symbols have become so integral, so important, that we need to establish a uniform for this nation. So in these two portraits, the garments have been made as a standardization of these symbols. The symbols of costume, of dress, of slogans. They all touch on different things. the shirt for example, is made up of Arafat’s 1988 speech in Algeria, the declaration of the Palestinian state, and his 1974 speech at the UN.

That’s what this project talks about — the need for symbols, as if they are the redemption of Palestinians.

Would the uniforms you have created ideally be uniforms for bureaucrats, or soldiers, or just a general national garb?

Since the idea that there are all of these things is so disgusting to me, I didn’t go so far as to figure out what rank the uniform would be for. That would be another project, and I’m not so keen on that.

So how would you feel if an official body decided to adopt this costume?

That would be the irony, because I’m not creating these as caricatures, I’m making them look as serious as possible to the point that people look at them and need to wonder — are these real people at real times made for real occasions? Or is this just a fashion shoot?

It’s important for me to make that confusion because we are that point — we’re confused. Because the PNA does now have a ceremonial uniform, garb, symbols, logo and coats of arms and ranks — it’s a joke! It’s real but it’s not real. Who’s it for? It looks legitimate but it’s totally unreal.

It seems unreal that the authorities could potentially adopt these uniforms, but I’m sure 20 years ago, if people imagined the situation that Palestine is in today, it would also seem completely unreal.

Could they have ever imagined that there would exist a kind of Palestinian police force that can’t actually do anything? Or Palestinian security forces that have to retreat every time Israeli soldiers come down the street?


The trouble is that Israel — as an establishment, an army, and as a nation — has so much influence over our imaginary as Palestinians, as it is the first example of a nation, especially of a European nation, that we have contact with (as opposed to the British, who came and left, and didn’t create a discourse as clear as the Zionist discourse). It is to an extent the only reference that many people have of what a country should look like.

The current uniforms of the Palestinian police, the color of the police and the army, are equal or identical to the Israeli uniforms. A lot of people wouldn’t be satisfied if it were otherwise. For them, emancipation is to become the enemy, rather than becoming something else, or better, or totally dismantling this pedigree.

I’m also trying to say here that we need to be very careful, we are turning into what we have always tried to resist. These guys are not just only threatening us, they’re informing our imaginations and our discourse in a way that has made us unaware of who we are anymore.

As well as the fact that the reproduction of Zionist apparatuses of control is not necessarily an emancipatory path.

Exactly. That is of course besides what the PNA actually does for the Zionist establishment. But I’m talking about how the way this becomes acceptable, in the minds of people — besides this idea that people are depressed and defeated, there’s always this psychological warfare and indoctrination and features and symbols that are not being filtered by people, that people aren’t aware.

They’re allowing these things to pass. To a considerable extent people aren’t willing to challenge that. that doesn’t come from nowhere or from basic fear, it comes from this acceptance that we need to have those things.

Maybe it’s a generational issue, but I think that there is also a sense of pride in the creation of a police force. People who 20 years ago couldn’t fly a flag get caught up in achieving those symbols of nationhood.

But that’s failure — that flying the flag is a priority, over the freedom to fly a flag itself. This is the trouble. The achievement comes from having the choice of being able to fly a flag, not in the act of flying the flag. That’s where there’s a confusion. People are obsessed with flying flags because they can. Not because they have the choice to.

This becomes the subtext for all of this: “20 years ago we couldn’t do this so its an achievement that now we can.” But it’s not about being able to or not, it’s about asking: why do we do these things?

We are fighting for self determination, and these are not self determining. We’re just fulfilling symbols and protocols and rituals. The right to self determine is the real struggle. These are not necessary things, these are just symbols and colors and layers that can be made and remade.

But to have the ability to choose, to determine things for our own self, without the influence of the occupation, or referring to systems of value which are warped — this is the true revolution. This is the true Palestinian cause.

"Ceremonial Vniform" is on display at the Birzeit University Museum until June 20. The museum is open daily, except Sundays and Fridays.

For updates, check the designer’s website, www.omarivsioseph.com, or follow the progress of the exhibition on his blog, http://omarivs.tumblr.comwww.omarivsioseph.com, or follow the progress of the exhibition on his blog, http://omarivs.tumblr.com, or on twitter @OmarivsIoseph.
alaabuasad:

عُمر يوسف بن دينا، بير زيت 
Omarivs Ioseph Filivs Dinæ, Bir Zeit, 2014
digital image. 



Our first re-blog!
The Star of Intersectionality

The Ceremonial Vniform :: Birzeit Vniversity Mvsevm
الرد الرسمي :: عمل ادائيThe Official Response :: A Performance 

Photography by Lucie Christine Estrada Mota ©Lucie Christine Estrada Mota & Birzeit University Museum

On the Popularity of Culture - This Week in Palestine (March 2014)

The positive suggestions of refinement and significance that are evoked by the idea of culture seem seldom questioned. Considering the disproportionate celebration of culture as opposed to its critique, this unchallenged popularity merits the odd investigation. Indeed it is interesting to see how the quest to profess and acquire acknowledgement through such a notion has become the driving force of so many.

Quoting British poet Matthew Arnold in Culture and Imperialism, Edward Said notes how “culture is a concept that includes a refining and elevating element…” This concept seems so vital that, in 1946, it was deemed necessary to establish an entire United Nations body, UNESCO (Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), for its care and preservation [and inevitable politicisation].

The Oxford English Dictionary offers three definitions, the first, in sync with Arnold’s, pertinent to the leisurely largely on the basis of direct consumption of art, music, literature…etc. The second is about patterns of living and customs of societies and their traditions. The third is biological: bacteria and things that grow in agar plates. Although each of the definitions describes a distinct pattern, a system, or an expression of life, the first relies almost entirely on social constructs and variables, such as taste, wealth, and class. On the other hand, culture, in the biological and ethnographic sense, is a technical term, ideally, without social value or hierarchy.

Although, culture as a technical term ought to have no social value, it is this lack that inevitably places it in a spectrum of superiority and inferiority as counterpart to the high arts. When one, therefore, argues that the mendacities of daily life are as significant in the cultural sense as paintings hanging in a national museum, they demonstrate failure in the critical sense. Not because of their democratic approach towards all things human, but by their willingness to surrender to a system of value that has already pre-established definitions of worth. This is derivative of a need to justify and give worth to practices and products that have generally been deemed valueless because of that very system. Calling things cultural is not an assertion of worth across the board, but a striving to acquire recognition through association with culture. Trying to change the system from within is an approach that is fundamentally flawed and usually pointless - American activist Audre Lorde made this rather clear.

Culture in question here is one where social interactions become reliant on the productivity of individuals or societies and the set of goods and services they produce and consume. Therein come hierarchy and class. This set of products, interactions, and transactions develops and becomes sustained by an almost mystic aura, alluring and logically inexplicable, what Karl Marx described as “commodity fetishism.” Culture thereby acquires a fetishist dimension, wherein the very act of its consumption and production is a somewhat spiritual, mystical exercise. This inbuilt mystification deliberately confuses between the technical/objective and the social/subjective.

Enter the artist, musician, creative, curator, academic, clergymen, politician, and professional. The sustainability of culture is down to these agents. Not through direct fabrication/creation of material or product, but through the discourse that their agency and position generate. Mysticism in the sense that production for a creative does not rely on a fixed set of media, technique, process, and product, but on her/his ability to transform material into a commodity whose value is never based on the cost of production or material but on their importance and their position in a hierarchy of reputation. As if by magic, an artist can render an inherently worthless object or medium into a profound work of art of great monetary and social value regardless of skill or quality. Thus capitalism, as a class system, is sustained and reinforced by these players.

Therefore, culture, once identified, immediately bestows superiority and importance on one entity as opposed to another. The prerequisite is that this entity must be recognised as culture by the mentioned agent or an equal. To become subject to qualitative and quantitative categorisation and always isolated from the immediate moment, culture is only recognised once it has occurred. It follows that individuals or societies who become aware of their cultural potential automatically lose intimacy with whatever it is that has been deemed so. They, in turn, become - in varying degrees - removed from these newly formed subjectivities. The anxiety and sense of loss generated by this knowledge and self-awareness drives the need to reconcile oneself with what has supposedly been lost. This estrangement not only makes one aware of culture, but also is, in and of itself, a result of this awareness and knowledge. The result is an insatiable sense of loss and lacking that can only be sated through conscious (and conspicuous) consumption and production. This, in turn, becomes directly responsible for the evaluation of social interactions on the basis of the possession, production, and consumption of culture - as a commodity, desired, demanded, produced, and reproduced through social transactions. A very good example of how the emergence of the desire to own is in sync with the emergence of a leisure class, as described by Norwegian-American cultural theorist Thorstein Veblen in his book, The Theory of the Leisure Class.

Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek explains this notion of how this feeling or impression of loss actually generates and creates the very entity that has been lost. He cites the example of how in many instances colonialism generates the actual culture it is oppressing. That is to say, colonialism promotes a culture where one does not exist, such that it becomes the object of veneration and struggle; one that the colonised feel they have lost and need to redeem and rebuild. Thus the coloniser subtly propagates and reinforces fragmentation and establishes divisions under that pretext.

Consider the unremitting sense of threat of living under Israeli apartheid and occupation, the constant reminder of the loss and trauma of the Nakba in 1948, and an ever-inventive colonial industrial complex. This genuine fear of repeated dispossession thus creates the framework and the dynamic in which symbols become of paramount importance and the object of the struggle. This desire is furthered by an internalised sense of worthlessness that has been consolidated by the occupation. Estrangement here is actively and principally imposed by the coloniser. The feeling of loss is further augmented when these symbols are stolen or appropriated by Israel (hatta, falafel, language…etc.).

Coupled with the class anxieties generated by its possession and generation, culture, as a fixed set of values, symbols, slogans, images, identities, and constructs, has become a pillar in the Palestinian struggle and cause. A poignant example is the attitude towards historical dress and costume in Palestine. The hysteria surrounding collecting, exhibiting, preserving, and celebrating it demonstrates this. An ever-strong conservationist and revivalist narrative seeks to enforce a binary wherein the contemporary is seen opposing the old on the basis of a supposed (and erroneous) “tradition” and “authenticity.” That this should somehow serve as proof of the Palestinian narrative is ludicrous! This not only succumbs to an oppressive and warped approach, but it also ignores and therefore strengthens the many problematic aspects of dress, as a sacred set of untouchable and unchanging truths. Culture and heritage, as opposed to what some might regard, are mere subcategories of political strategy.

Could culture, therefore, exist without an effective estrangement of that particular set of rituals and images from the daily lives of its subjects? Does it only become relevant when it is under threat from colonialism, modernisation, globalisation, etc.? Could the perception that institutions and individuals protecting and saving heritage from this threat be an obfuscation of a colonial practice that ensures the removal of a once-stable economy from the central quotidian domain into the utterly obsolete? Therefore, when individuals and society consume and fetishize their own hyper-stylised and hyper-commoditised heritage at specific junctures and instances - weddings, funerals, religious and national holidays - they are, in effect, entrenching this divide. And so could this celebration of authenticity, deemed central to almost any emancipatory struggle, be at its very root a colonial effect?

Ironically, Zizek sees that being torn from one’s original constellation and being more bereft of roots/culture/heritage than the oppressor allows one the unique chance of becoming more universal and emancipated than the oppressor. Culture, it seems, is more an imposed, constructed want rather than a basic or liberating need.

Omarivs Ioseph Filivs Dinæ

[http://www.thisweekinpalestine.com/details.php?id=4219&ed=228&edid=228]

Udvikling Magazine Denmark  NR 1 · 2014 · feb/mar · 41. ÅRGANG

The Ceremonial Vniform :: Official Portrait - Abu Saleh & Abu Zuhair ©Omarivs Ioseph Filivs Dinæ & Tarek Moukaddem MMXIII

This Week in Palestine - Exhibition Review
The Ceremonial Vniform :: Birzeit Vniversity Mvsevm
Omarivs Ioseph Filivs Dinæ :: Magenta
Forefathers :: Birzeit [Palestine]
Drawing Classes - Yonks ago…..
Official Poster الملصق الرسمي
زي التشريفات :: متحف جامعة بيرزيت
The Ceremonial Vniform :: Birzeit Vniversity Mvsevm
معرض ل عمر يوسف بن دينا
An Exhibition by Omarivs Ioseph Filivs Dinæ