Agony ( 2014 )

by: Gertrud Sandqvist

Majd Abdel Hamid is posing utterly serious questions to his society. What do you do when symbols have become clichés when language has lost its force when politics is a never-ending game about a future that is almost impossible not to relate cynically to? But he is a friendly person – he is using humour instead of despair.

Painkillers (2010) is maybe the most sinister piece. To use the heroic Palestinian prisoners’ pastime to make models of the Dome of the Rock, but this time with the addictive painkiller Tramal is to diagnose a whole society. The question “How are you able to survive an on-going trauma since decades?” is answered with “We don’t”.

Hourglass, with its sand coming from cement from the Wall, is described by the artist as “A dysfunctional hourglass where time often stops”. It’s funny, it’s even witty, but somehow one doesn’t feel like laughing. Whose life is counted for with this hourglass? It’s MINE! would the artist have the right to exclaim?

Here lies the agony. To transform the Nakba key to lollipops or to make the declaration of independence into a nice pattern says the same thing – time is running, maybe running out, and what do we have? What have we achieved? Does anyone any longer believe that things will change for the better? Could these symbols any longer help anyone? Aren’t we, in fact, going in the other direction, somehow pacified in the role of the victim, the martyr?

“ Our heritage was left to us by no testament”, quotes Hannah Arendt the poet René Char in her book with exercises in political thought Between Past and Future. And she goes on quoting Franz Kafka:

“He has two antagonists: the first presses him from behind, from the origin. The second blocks the road ahead. He gives battle to both. To be sure, the first supports him in his fight with the second, for he wants to push him forward, and in the same way the second supports him in his fight with the first, since he drives him back. But it is only theoretically so. For it is not only the two antagonists who are there, but he himself as well, and who really knows his intentions? His dream, though, is that some time in an unguarded moment and this would require a night darker than any night has ever been yet he will jump out of the fighting line and be promoted, on account of his experience in fighting, to the position of umpire over his antagonists in their fight with each other.”

How does one avoid to be crushed in the fight between the past and the future? Majd Abdel Hamid has found one answer: through art.

Gertrud Sandqvist, b 1955, professor in the theory and history of ideas of visual art, has been Rector of Malmö Art Academy since 2011

Sandqvist has been working as an art critic and curator since 1981.




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