Geert Lovink on Mon, 28 Jul 1997 15:40:06 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> interview with ariella azoulay

Jeruzalem, the Internet and 'other spaces'
An interview with Ariella Azoulay
By Geert Lovink

Outside Hybrid Workspace, Documenta X, Kassel
July 23, 1997

Ariella Azoulay is the director of the Program for Curatorial and
Critical Studies at the Camera Obscura School in Tel Aviv and studies
in Paris. For many years she was director of the Bograshov art space in
Tel Aviv. Her article "Clean Hands" appeared in the documents 3
publication. In her 100 days lecture, Ariella Azoulay spoke about
Jerusalem and the multipicity of spaces in this city. She also showed the
work of the two Israeli artists Aya and Gal who now have a website
where they present their work being shown at Documenta X.
You can see and haer the 100 days lecture of Ariella Azoulay at:

Geert Lovink: In your 100 days lecture you mentioned Foucault's
concept of the 'other space'. You related this to virtual spaces.
On the other hand you spoke about a very real space: Jerusalem. Has
this 'other' space an in-between character or is it indeed different?

Ariella Azoulay: I wanted to ridicule this concept. Foucault used
this term for the first time in the sixties, in a lecture he gave to
architects. He referred to specific types of spaces -- prisons, schools,
etc. He wanted to describe spaces which exist within the social space,
but which have another logic. The way you enter is different, there is control
over the borderlines, control by subjects, by people. I think Foucault
missed something here; maybe he could not think of it. I am using
the hand as a main framework and perspective to analyse activities
within spaces. The hand is an accessory which permits one to go in, and
disconnect from spaces and objects. When I am speaking of the hand as a
slave of two masters, I am putting the subject and the space in
relation to allow navigation between spaces, objects and people. In
this way, I am deconstructing the subject as a metaphysical entity. As
I am speaking about space, everything can become 'heterotopia'. The
subject is also a part of other spaces. Sometimes my hand is part of
this space, sometimes it is in the (virtual) other space. We
cannot create clear demarcations. We are, in fact, speaking of a
network of relations which permits the interference between objects,
subjects and spaces.

GL: In opposition to your view is the idea that cyberspace is a utopia,
a dislocated environment one emigrate to and have multiple, fluid
identities. Disconnected from the body, the pure spirit can reside
there, forever. In your model there are many more layers and you switch
from the one to next.

AA: The fantasies of the cyber ideologues are exactly what I am trying
to escape from. In my view there are no parallel worlds. I am all the
time in-between these worlds. In our postmodern reality we are
constantly in-between. But we have so much ideology that
pretends we can choose: to be in this or that world. It is the
ideology of either-or. In reality or in cyberspace. Do I want to be a
consistent subject with a history and biography or do I want to invent
myself all the time? I cannot be both. We are compelled to make
choices, to affirm our subjectivity. I try to escape this. For me, the
choice is in the navigation through multiple spaces and moments.

GL: For the virtual class and its digital artisans, the conflict
between Israel and the Palestinians seems so ancient and anachronistic.
The fight over such a small piece of land -- and geography in general --
seems so futile, so atavistic. I am not so sure if this is the right
view on things. But there is some truth in it. The future frontiers in
cyberspace and the conflicts over land seem so distant from each other.

AA: It is a very delicate question. You should behave in a prudent
way. I must be very careful not to play into the hands of the
government by saying that land is not important. If not, then why
should we give the Palestinians the land? If national identity is not
important, why then should we recognize the Palestinians as a national
subject? I find myself obliged to be in favour of national identity
because this might be the only way to stop the occupation. But of course
I cannot believe in it.

GL: It is said that the gap within Israeli society is growing
between those who live in very modern circumstances and others
who pretend to live out of the present, in some imaginary, religious
time frame.

AA: Most Israelis are living under postmodern conditions. They are
completely intertwined in the Western networks of globalization. At
the same time, many of them want to impose an ideology which is in
conflict with their own daily practice. They are selling arms to
Micronesia. The moment you pick up the phone, you are living two
identities. You are here and your voice is there. Your identity is not
one entity. When it comes to history and national identity, they want to
impose one story and erase the different, other spaces in order to
homogenize the story. Today we are facing the conflict between the
heterogeneous spaces and practices in which we are living, all of us,
and the desire for the one homogeneous space and identity.

GL: In your lecture, you urged us to look at the present of the city of
Jerusalem. Only then might we get away from the homogenoeus claims of
those who are either captured in the past or those who are feverishly
preparing for the Messiah who might arrive tomorrow.

AA: What is paradoxical here is that while I am speaking in favour of
'other spaces', it seems like I am utopian. But the heterogeneous
spaces are present; a great variety of relationships exists, even between
Israelis and Palestinians. It is impossible to speak about variety. We
have to describe everything within this big paradigm of the conflict.
The 3000 years of the existence of the Israeli presence in Jerusalem and
the many centuries of Islam presence are metaphysical subjects. Beyond
the concrete world. But since the Enlightenment, the French Revolution
and the birth of national identity, we are living under the regime of
the subject. The subject is a metaphysical entity which does not live
in the present. When I see people on the street, I do not see subjects.
But we are all the time called to affirm ourselves as subjects who know to
choose, as if we were outside of the world. Subjectivity is what prevents
us from seeing our presence in the present. We do not have any
authorship of our actions. We are acting on the world and we are being
acted upon by the world. All the time you are trying to observe where
there is an 'ouverture', in order to multiply the space where you are
living in, not to reaffirm the one space of your subjectivity which is
beyond the world.

GL: What is the role of the Internet in all this? Has the hype arrived
in Israel?

AA: I have no statistics. There is more and more interest. I know some
artists who are working with the Net, like Aya and Gal. There is a
magazine now called 'Captain Internet'. In the art world it did not
arrive in a big way. The hegemonic Israeli art is painting. For me it
is interesting to see how this CD-ROM installation of Aya and Gal is
looked upon here in Kassel. It was conceived as a driving tour around the
YMCA-Tower in Jerusalem. Their 'other space' is now transplanted into
the space of Europe, of globalization, spaces evoked very loudly in
the Documenta. The passage of the work from Jerusalem to Kassel only
underlines the impossibility of the one point of view, which is the
view from above, from the outside.

(edited by David Hudson)

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