If Art can carry part of the collective memory and some responsibilities of a nation, I think to make an atmospheric artwork, an illusionary scene, and it has to be a minimum of real in it, to let the content reach easier to the public and involve them, a dark scene full of imaginary layers that can take the position of the public in the exhibition to experience the social and political complexity in Palestine.
There are many possible ways in the photography and the Cinema Archive frames to reconstruct the demolished cinema hall and the cinema archive in Palestine.
Cinema Dunia was the first cinema hall of Ramallah, built in the 1950s on Rukab street. It was one of the few social gathering places at the time. The cinema was open until 1987 when all cinemas were closed down by the Palestinian political parties during the First Intifada. The owner decided to demolish it and use the land as a parking lot fourteen years later, and Cinema Dunia was turned into Dunia Parking Lot for eight years. Now, a commercial tower called Dunia Trade Centre is under construction.
Would Ramallah’s residents have bigger potential than now if Cinema Dunia still existed? And how it would be configured in our imagination? The project is a scale model of Cinema Dunia, a futuristic recreation as if Cinema Dunia still existed. Inside the model a real movie screening and small figures watching a video collage edited from the Palestinian Cinema Archive. Imaginary film posters hang as witnesses of a history of Palestinian cinema that never happened.
Wafa Hourani - Palestinian Artist - Photography - Installation - Science Fiction
Cinema Dunia / By Rula Khory
A long yearning soundtrack is projected from the interior of a miniature cinema hall model and waves out of the sculpture through its open windows. The soundtrack takes you on a journey filled with different tones of music and dialogue, with soft rock—the kind that sucks you into longing—shifting to the sad sounds of violins, merging with the sound of wind and soft piano playing. Then suddenly and shockingly the word “Expelled” is spoken in a man’s voice, interrupting these peaceful sounds.
This striking music and the voices are a mystery to us. We walk around the installation searching for some video that might match up to the music and sounds we are hearing. We discover that the video’s source is inside the miniature cinema hall and we need to peek inside in order to watch. A real movie is screened and small figures watch this video montage edited from the Palestinian Cinema Archive and combined with footage from the installation itself. While we go around we find surprising movements and artifacts in the installation. Posters of imaginary films hang on the walls, recalling a history of Palestinian cinema that never took place. Cars pass by in the streets. Twisted humor is present in the form of a toy lion standing on one of the rooftops. When you wander around you find a world, apart from our own, surrounding the cinema, such as a make-believe Palestinian museum.
The installation embraces the strategy of replicating reality, projecting the image of the installation back inside the work itself. The installation itself is assumed to be more genial than the subject the artist, Wafa Hourani, represents with his miniature sculptures and everyday scenes which both provoke and question our society.
Cinema Dunia was the first cinema hall of Ramallah, built in the fifties on Rukab Street. At the time this cinema was one of the few places in which people gathered. The cinema was open until the first Intifada in 1987 when all the cinemas were closed by the Palestinian Solidarity Movement. Fourteen years after the owner decided to demolish it and use the land for parking. Cinema Dunia was turned into Dunia Parking for eight years and now a commercial tower called Dunia Trade Centre, with various shops and fast food places, such as KFC and Pizza Hut, now stands in its place.
Hourani, a filmmaker that made his way into visual arts, explains his intentions, “in order that the content is more accessible to the public and in order that it involves them more I have created a dark scene full of imaginary layers that can take the position of the public in the exhibition in order that they can experience more closely, the social and political complexities in Palestine.”
This exhibition puts into question the urban development of Ramallah. Hourani makes art as a model, producing life in the model with an interaction of hiding and seek. In general, to copy something of the original is to create an illusion in which the boundaries between fact and fiction, real and artificial, actual and virtual reality become much more engaged and blurred, presenting illusion as self-reflection. The photo lives; in our memory the image we forget. Hourani was influenced by Federico Garcia Lorca. He shares his belief that the secrets are more powerful than the images, and that the image is disappearing in hyper-reality.
Hourani explains “if art can carry part of the collective memory and some of the responsibilities of a nation, I think to make an atmospheric artwork, an illusionary scene, there has to be a minimum of reality in it.” This message is completed within the illusionary space of the installation and the video montage that Hourani produces, which serve to question the essence of the Palestinian image and the role of the cinema. At the end of the video black-and-white footage of a Hani Jawahreyeh interview is seen. In the background there is an image of a child behind barbed wire. Jawhareyeh explains that the idea alone of organizing a Palestinian film festival can be like a weapon that fuels the Palestinian revolution.