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The University of Southampton

‘Otherwise Occupied’ to premiere at the Venice Biennale

Published: 30 May 2013

Internationally-renowned artists Bashir Makhoul and Aissa Deebi will present their exhibition ‘Otherwise Occupied’ at the prestigious Venice Biennale 2013 (31 May to 30 June). The exhibition, to be staged at the Liceo Artistico Statale di Venezia, is one of many collateral events associated with the Biennale, which began in 1895 and continues to embrace and promote new artistic trends.

The artists were both born inside Palestine’s 1948 borders and emigrated to become citizens of other states, operating in a globalised art world. They still think of themselves as Palestinians and are in search of new ways to imagine the nation from a distance.

The artists explain that to be otherwise occupied is to be busy elsewhere, to be engaged in activities outside the programme. For them, this means making work that does not necessarily comply with the agendas determined by the occupation. The ‘otherwise’ is an imaginary, parallel space beyond the claims of nationalism that is opened up by global cultural events such as the Venice Biennale.

Professor Makhoul, Rector of Winchester School of Art at the University of Southampton, will occupy the garden of the Liceo with thousands of cardboard box houses. The occupation will be partly made by members of the public during the exhibition, who can view the growing cardboard shanty town but will also be able to construct their own house from a stack of flat boxes. The piece will emphasise the performative aspects of occupation—the act of getting there and of filling the space.

Otherwise Occupied

This exhibition is a further exploration of Professor Makhoul’s large-scale installation ‘Enter Ghost Exit Ghost’, which consists of a full-sized, interior maze and a large cardboard model of an Arab town or refugee camp and raises questions about the kinds of spaces that have emerged in sites of conflict and in the urban margins of globalization.

Aissa Deebi’s contribution to ‘Otherwise Occupied’ is entitled ‘The Trial’, a two-channel installation consisting of a re-enactment (in English) of a speech by Daoud Turki at the Haifa court house in 1973, when he was a defendant during a military trial.

Turki, a Palestinian-Arab citizen of Israel, had been arrested by the Israeli military with four other members of the “Red Front” and charged with espionage and collaboration with the enemy. Deebi is based in Cairo and New York. His works investigate a range of notions around migration and alienation and diaspora as a creative space. He is the Director of the Visual Cultures Program at the American University in Cairo.


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