Emily Jacir

Emily Jacir on her exhibition at IMMA in Dublin

View of “Europa,” 2016–17. Foreground: Notes for a Cannon, 2016. Installation view, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 2016. Photo: Denis Mortell.

Emily Jacir is an artist and filmmaker whose work addresses silenced historical narratives, translation, resistance, transformation, and exchange. She investigates personal and collective movement and its implications for the physical and social experience of trans-Mediterranean space and time. Her solo exhibition “Europa,” her first survey in Ireland, features such works as the installation ex libris , 2010–12—originally commissioned by Documenta 13—which is a memorial to the approximately thirty thousand books from Palestinian homes, libraries, and institutions that were looted by Israeli authorities in 1948. The show is on view at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin through February 26, 2017.

I CHOSE THE TITLE “EUROPA,” the Arabic and Italian word for Europe, in order to emphasize looking at Europe from my perspective here in the Mediterranean. I do think it is important to make a distinction between Italy, with all that it means to me both personally and as an artist, and other places in Europe that are featured in this exhibition. For example, cities like Paris, Linz, and Kassel are all places I have briefly visited, whereas Italy has been quintessential to my formation; I have been living in Rome off and on since I was fourteen. This exhibition features histories of movement that are shared by the Irish, the Italians, and the Palestinians—all of whom are migratory peoples. For centuries, webs of social connections and communication were between the wider world and a particular village, such as Bethlehem or Catania. It is no accident that the Italian and Arabic words for country, paese and balad, are also the words for village.

The works in the show also reflect links between Palestine and Ireland and the shared history of British colonial rule. After the Nakba in 1948—an event whose repercussions are even more harsh and devastating today—Palestine remained, and remains occupied. Additionally, those refugees who were forced to flee then are now fleeing for a second, third, and sometimes fourth time due to current events in the region. When considering recent migrations to Europe, it is important to look to Palestine, as we are not only one of the largest refugee communities, but also the most protracted refugee problem in the world. We’ve been waiting to be repatriated for decades. To view current events in relation to this fact is vital, as there is a lot of knowledge and experience to be gained from it.

I am premiering a new work commissioned by the museum, titled Notes for a Cannon, 2016, which takes as its point of departure the clock tower that once stood at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem before being destroyed by the British in 1922 under the command of Ronald Storrs, the British military governor of the occupied city. The removal served to make the city match the British imaginary of what biblical Jerusalem should look like. The piece has many facets, but it’s essentially an exploration into slippages of and standardization of time, as well as time-keeping practices in public space. It explores the ways in which various times are lived and experienced simultaneously, and it touches on Dublin’s loss in 1916 of its own time zone, Dublin Mean Time. The piece reflects upon the site of IMMA and the events which took place in there in 1916 during the Easter Rising when General Maxwell carried out the order to execute the leaders of the uprising. There is a sound installation in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham clock tower and then an installation in the east wing of the building which includes footage I shot in Acre and Gaza in 2000, as well as drawings, photographs, an original 1890 bell from a church in Armagh, and an 1890 original Ottoman wristwatch.