Saher Miari | Ahmad al-Arabi
Curator: Dr. Dor Guez
Saher Miari’s solo exhibition at the Umm el-Fahem Art Gallery, Ahmad al-Arabi, spans three halls that display different chapters of his oeuvre over the past decade. Miari’s installations, made of epitomically modern materials—concrete and steel—are precision works of superb quality. Skeletons of buildings usually lack grace and glitter, but Miari’s are typified by cleanliness and strict attention to the way these fundamental building materials are used. The works cannot but elicit questions about the artist’s identity and the status and the constructive and aesthetic functioning of the works in the white hall where they are installed. Miari knits boards, concrete, and steel pillars together with national, ethnic, political, religious, and ethnic perspectives, thus evoking questions about the place where we are living and testing the public consciousness of concepts of identity and home, imitation and original. He forces the viewer to contemplate the quotidian routine of the Palestinian construction worker and reflect on where he stands in the Israeli collective mind.
From the point of view of an artist-builder, Miari broadens his stratified attention to the Israeli house. He deals with the conditions under which the house is built (“black-market labor,” occupation of the soil) and the internalization of the collective security threat in the Israeli public mind and its manifestations in the public space (relocation of the once-collective bomb shelter to private homes). Concurrently, he juxtaposes the Hebrew pioneering ethos to the Palestinian ethos (building vs. destruction, Hebrew pioneer vs. Arab construction worker, etc.). At the core of the exhibition, a quotation from the Bible appears: “One hand works while the other clutches a dagger” (Nehemia 4:11). It is presented in Arabic letters, so that only those who know Arabic can read it but only Hebrew speakers can understand it. It means that the individual, while engaging in craft and construction, is also busy fending off his or her enemies. Miari relates to the pioneers who settled in the Jezreel Valley, who worked the soil and built with one hand and clutched weapons for defense with the other. In his work, Miari links the Hebrew pioneer with the Arab laborer and binds their identity and fate together.