The Dreamer: Ezzeddine Qalaq
Rasha Salti, Kristine Khouri
CDA-Projects Grant for Artistic Research and Production Events (2011 Grant Recipient)
October 5th, 2012, 18:30 at KAT1
The talk was in English.
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Ezzeddin Qalaq with artists in Beirut, 1978. From left to right Hilmi Touni (Egypt), Claude Lazar (France) and Seta Manoukian (Lebanon). Photo courtesy of Claude Lazar.
The International Art Exhibition for Palestine opened on March 21st, 1978 at the Beirut Arab University, adjacent to the PLO headquarters and the Shatila refugee camp. Nearly two hundred works (paintings, lithographs and sculptures) were donated by one hundred and ninety-seven artists from thirty-one countries in support of the Palestinian revolution and were intended to form the seed collection for a Museum in Solidarity with Palestine. Countries included Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, France, Italy, Spain, Hungary, Germany, Poland and the USSR, Japan, India, as well as most Arab counties. The idea for this large-scale international exhibition was conceived as a first step in the establishment of a museum of international art in solidarity with Palestine, in exile. Its harbinger was Ezzeddine Qalaq, the PLO’s representative in France, a charismatic militant, an intellectual and dreamer, he believed in the power of art to engage the imaginary and change people’s consciousness of the world.
Qalaq was a doctoral student at the Université de Poitiers when he joined the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS), a political organization that played a pivotal role in creating a new generation of political leaders after the Palestinians’ expulsion from their homeland and dispersal in the world. Early on, Qalaq gravitated towards politically engaged art circles, he marshaled Palestinian, Arab and European artists to produce posters for the Palestinian revolution. He also instigated and accompanied a group of filmmakers from the Cahiers du Cinéma to travel to the refugee camps in Syria and Lebanon and make a film, L’Olivier that screened widely in France and internationally.
Qalaq was assassinated on August 3rd, 1978, a day after he returned to Paris from Beirut, where he had stayed for months working on setting up the exhibition. During their research on the reconstitution of The International Art Exhibition for Palestine, Khouri and Salti reconstructed his biography. His work among artists and intellectuals, as a militant with access to resources for making and sometimes commissioning films, posters, exhibitions and screenings tells the story of politically engaged art in solidarity with Palestine from the perspective of the producers. The presentation will explore the implications of excavating the story and its multiple significance from the perspective of its organizers.
“After 1982, the Palestinian Revolution lost its ability to stage and produce discourse, posters, films etc. I think that is when you stop talking about the Palestinian revolution and start talking about a cause. In the cause, it becomes a very narrow national vision. It stops becoming a revolution that changes your life, the way you see the world.” Rasha Salti
Image and quote from the presentation
Born and raised in Miami, Khouri studied Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and Art History at the University in Chicago. She spent a year in Amman (2007-2008) on a Fulbright fellowship investigating visual art practice and production, specifically institutions and structures and identity production. In 2008 she moved to Beirut and worked as a researcher for Walid Raad on his current project “Scratching on Things You Could Disavow: A History of Modern and Contemporary Arab Art” as well as with Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige on the Lebanese Rocket Society project. She has contributed writing to Bidoun, Art Asia Pacific Almanac, The National (Abu Dhabi), and her most recent text in for Art Dubai’s Global Art Forum 6: The Medium of Media’s publication “TL; DR, Some Medium Stories.”