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Emily Jacir – Palestinian-American artist wins Golden Lion in Venice

Contributed by Fuad Salem on 02.11.2007:

“This is for Palestine.”

Emily Jacir – Palestinian-American artist wins Golden Lion in Venice

Palestinian-American artist Emily Jacir has won a Golden Lion for her work in the international exhibition of the 52nd Venice Biennale. Jacir’s contribution to “Think with the Senses, Feel with the Mind,” curated by Robert Storr, is titled “Material for a Film” and consists of photographs, texts, videos and sound installations.

The piece delves into the story of Wael Zuaiter, a Palestinian poet who was gunned down outside his apartment building in Rome in 1972. According to Jacir’s text, Zuaiter was “the first victim in Europe in a series of assassinations committed by Israeli agents of Palestinian artists, intellectuals and diplomats that was already underway in the Middle East.”

The Venice Biennale is one of the oldest and most prestigious international art exhibitions of its kind, both loved and hated for its structure, which pairs an international show with individual, national pavilions.

For every edition, Golden Lions are awarded in several categories, including lifetime achievement (which was awarded this year to Malian photographer Malik Sidibe), art critic or historian (won by the Harvard professor Benjamin Buchloh, whose writings on such artists as Gerhard Richter have informed broader critical reception of the painter’s work) and artist under the age of 40 (Jacir’s prize).

The jury’s citation credited Jacir for “a practice that takes as its subject exile in general and the Palestinian issue in particular. Without recourse to exoticism, the work … establishes and expands a crossover between cinema, archival documentation, narrative and sound.”

Though under 40, Jacir has become well known for the power of her projects, many of which are process-based, such as “Where We Come From” (2003). For the piece, she asked Palestinian refugees one question – “If I could do anything for you, anywhere in Palestine, what would it be?” – and documented her fulfillment of their wishes with photographs and videos.

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