There hasn’t been a lack of bad news coming out of the Middle East for a couple of millennia. Unless you have been in a complete news blackout for your entire life, this section of the globe instantly spurs images of unending war, hate, fanaticism and atrocities. With each faction seeking to secure sovereignty, safety and possibly even victory in this ceaseless conflict, one cannot help but feel utterly helpless to understand or address this massively complex and derisive issue. In a world where myriad suicide bombings follow constant military strikes, and diplomacy is rarely seen as a realistic option, peace or even peaceful Arab-Israeli dialogue is hard to imagine happening in the near future.
However, in the midst of this seemingly constant bloodshed, Piece Process, a self described “collective of professional Jewish and Arab-American artists committed to working together in spite of the current situation,” uses their secret weapon, art, to combat the notion that warfare is the only option. As an artistic, ethnic and religious conglomerate, they work en masse to “demonstrate that an environment of dialogue, tolerance, integrity, dignity and attentiveness can exist.” With this simple manifesto, the group has currently created “Piece Process IV: After Lebanon,” an eclectic and moving collection of pertinent works centered on the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
“Piece Process,” like its goal, is highly unique. Comprised of a dozen artists, the group began creating joint exhibits in 2002, and, as the title hints, this is the fourth generation of the ongoing program. Though the situation in the Middle East grows increasingly more violent and the peace process stagnates (if not deteriorates), the 12 artists remain undaunted.
Though material gains are absent, “Piece Process” remains committed to creating an “art space” that allows for the evolution of a more tangible and decisive space for collaboration and conversation between sides. Furthermore, as the word “piece” illustrates, art, though potentially powerful, is only a part of a solution that must be built brick by brick. Thus, the nature of this exhibit is a victory for thought and peace in the connections it establishes between those who construct or view it.
As to be expected, much of the art is extremely personal, and thus does not at first directly translate to the viewer. However, several outstanding works are present, including a nine-part painting by Doris Bittar that investigates the connections and disparities between her identity as an Arab, an American and ultimately a citizen with global ideals. Thus this work, which includes symbols from her various backgrounds, and several others (most specifically the spectacular photography), provide a more explicit background on which to analyze the many abstract pieces on display such as the cardboard tower of Jenny Polak. Each piece from the 12 artists has more than enough artistic and cultural worth to merit a visit to the gallery.
UR has become lucky enough to host this ground-breaking and uniquely disarming experience. “Piece Process IV: After Lebanon” shows in the Wilson Commons Hartnett Gallery, which is on the second floor of the building. The exhibit, funded by the Humanities Project, just opened on Monday and will run through April 22. The Humanities Project is actually a composite of 10 different projects, each with the aim of exposing students to the humanities. Clearly, attendance to the Hartnett Gallery over the next month goes far above the goal of mere exposure, transcending borders and ideologies and instilling the hope that a peaceful coexistence can indeed be a reality.
Burnett is a member of the class of 2010.