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Agro-Art

Contemporary Agriculture in Israeli Art. Curator: Tali Tamir 19.2.2015 - 13.6.2015

Thanks: Dror Etkes (Kerem Navot), Yael Prolow

The wall piece Key is based on the disciplines of cartography, geography, and military or civilian aerial photography for intelligence, planning, and surveillance purposes. Dana Yoeli uses aerial photographs produced by Google, which are available to all, to reconstruct a one-day journey held in October 2014, following Jewish agriculture in the Occupied Territories south of Bethlehem. Yoeli combines a distant aerial view, which offers a vast, anonymous and abstract, sublime space, with a specific gaze that clings to the ground, where it identifies signs and traces of action.
Jewish agriculture in the Occupied Territories strives to realize a biblical vision by planting crops belonging to the seven species, as mentioned in Deuteronomy 8: 7-8: “For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land […] A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey.” These crops (the honey stands for dates), considered fruits with which “the Land of Israel was blessed”, receive preferential status from the Jewish farmer in the Territories, who exerts himself to make their presence felt in the area and establish a fait accompli, pushing Palestinian agriculture out. Since devout Muslims abstain from drinking wine, the wine grapes have become a distinctive feature of Jewish agriculture in the Occupied Territories.
Yoeli lays bare the deceptive use of agriculture as a tool for creeping annexation of the Territories, evading public attention under the guise of a pastoral terrain. She isolated an aerial sphere, pinpointing several levels of signification and distortion within it: a settlement that has expanded the borders of its cultivated land beyond the agreed area, thereby doubling and solidifying its territory. Another area bears eight image sequences which together define a cartographic legend, or key, of agricultural actions carried out by Jewish farmers: marking the borders of a field; laying an irrigation pipe; razing boulders to pave a road; the traces of agricultural machinery in the sand; a barrier against wild boar roaming in the area; wastewater discharge; and more visible, clear signs, such as commemoration plaques, fences, and planting.
The parallel languages of agricultural presence attest to the dialectics underlying the Israeli-Zionist-settler culture: while deeming the Arab fellah an agent of biblical memory, who preserves ancient agricultural traditions, it simultaneously pushes him out and restricts his actions. By the same token, the olive tree, which is uprooted and moved around, has become the victim of the symbolic baggage with which it was charged by both cultures.


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