Outsiders – Art Knows No Borders Blog 4/11

8.23.16

Fanning the flames of conflict the world over are the righteous. The zealots who pull the trigger are matched by the outsiders, who gilt in their own armor of ignorance, bay for the blood they will not have to taste. I was asked today by a determined American how my Jewishness related to my views on Israel. It was an accusation posed as a question. While seemingly satisfied by my opposition to occupation, the conversation brought out ugly and ancient stereotypes with ease, and more importantly drew a line between us. It reminded me not at all with my conversations with my Arab friends, but quite a bit of conversations I have had with politically conservative Americans.

In my experience many liberal western outsiders are often equally as boldly sanguine as their hawkish conservative counterparts, equally ready to excuse and promote the atrocities they will never have to suffer. Will they still remember conflict and occupation in another decade I wonder? Or will they forget the role they played, forget the seeds of violence they encouraged, move onto to some new war or cause célèbre even as the blood continues soak into the sand, unchanged. The alternative to peace is not justice, and I doubt either will be birthed out of the womb of war.

-Alex

A Setback – Art Knows No Borders Blog 3/11

8.22.16

Strange dreams come to me in the night like omens. Memories of a hidden vigor returning to forgotten veins, imbuing dim reserves with fresh light and leavings. An unknown lover dissolves at dusk as I cross a dangerous threshold, their place taken by a protective guide who leads me past strange piles of dismembered limbs demanding favors, where it is unclear whether acquiescence or denial is the damnable outcome. When I wake there is only the soft reality of the hard hostel bed.

There is a bad news today, the organization that we were scheduled to work with in Jordan has withdrawn from the collaboration, specifically citing fear of social ostracization by an anti-normalization group. While frustrating, the setback provides insight into both the depth of cultural opposition to anything, however tenuously, linked to Israel, and paradoxically, also its shallowness.

A conversation with a Taxi driver on the way back from a local ruin elucidates the situation via an anecdote about the normalization of the fruit trade. As one of the closest suppliers of fresh produce, Israeli fruit is ubiquitous in Jordan for reasons of both cost and freshness. The immense social pressure to boycott Israeli products however prevents vendors from selling the fruit openly. This conflict is resolved pragmatically by vendors who remove and laboriously replace Israel destination stickers with fraudulent ones from other neighboring counties such as Egypt or Lebanon. Such acts are common place and an open secret.

Israeli manifests like a specter, or perhaps a contagion, here. A touch is damnation, even when the fruit is not rotten. The intersections of identity, compassion, practicality, and suffering are a labyrinthine causeway over a perilous expanse.

-Alex

 

Arrivals and Departures – Art Knows No Borders Blog 2/11

8.21.16

Screaming from the peaceful abyss of the sky into the dim, hard realities of land scarcely more firm, my aluminum chariot touches down in Amman at 10:00 pm Jerusalem time. Delayed in Paris for three hours, when I arrive in Jordan it will be dead-eyed and swaying, sleepless for two days. The Parisian airport is graceful and old before its time, it sleek lines and bright colors aged with dignity, yet somehow also willfully obtuse. The flight passes uneventfully as we move over and past the calm, pleasant greens of southern France. Having dozed fitfully among the sky, when I awake it is in an altogether different world.

Border control and customs in Jordan is casual and perfunctory, and though I make my way out of the airport with haste I have already missed my planned encounter with May. Due to sleep loss I haggle badly with the taxi driver, who, obviously tired himself, half-hardheartedly tries the usual tout scams through the blare of wind and loud chant-like Arabic music that crescendos into the passing night.

-Alex

Introductions – Art Knows No Borders Blog 1/11

8.03.16

Welcome to the Art Knows No Borders blog! We are a newly formed art organization focused on raising awareness of trans-boundary issues in the Levant through art and education. Our team includes, myself, Oregon based artist and adventurer Noah Alexander Stein, Chilean artist, dancer, and educator, May Garces, trans-boundary researcher and artist, Sofia Kosel. This blog is dedicated to chronicling and sharing our experiences understanding the roots of inter-cultural conflict in the Levant. There is a long road ahead of us and I hope you join us on our journey as we struggle to piece together the broken bridges of our shared humanity!

– Noah Alexander Stein

The Bardo

New painting and written piece:

The Bardo, or A Memory of Death, 2015

“…That the collection ever imagined itself as a thing apart was always an illusion, cast like a shadow by the singular light of consciousness. For even existentially, as beings that dream tales of a life lived and a narrative concluded, we were deceived. The great change that we defined as oblivion was inseparable from our breath. As we closed our eyes each night we, with unreasonable faith, trusted that that which left us would return. With each moment passed we did not mourn for the eddy of ourselves lost in the stream. Even the memories that we held with such precarious grips, that we swore gave truth to the lie, shift like dunes in the deserts of our individuality…”

New Jerusalem

New written piece:

The Fires Below New Jerusalem/the Wheel of Holocaust, 2015

“…Seen in this light, the part of the world that is damaged is that part of ourselves that, in the refractions of our perceptions, sees deformity instead of perfection. The only true messiah is therefore the understanding which discards the obscuring veil from the perfection already present in the waters of the eternal now. This is not an escape from action, but rather a call to it; for it also contains the understanding that the only act which is worthwhile is the one performed for its own sake. It necessitates that the change we desire be enacted now; for indeed, when else is there?”

A Pyramid Rising Out of the Sea

New written piece:

A Pyramid Rising Out of the Sea, 2015

“…Like all of our deepest fears, this terror of the abyss finds purchase in our symbols, myths, and stories. Among them; the sexually resplendent serpent who tempts the first woman in the garden of Eden, Níðhöggr, the dragon who gnaws at the roots of the world-tree, and the snake that steals eternal youth from Gilgamesh. The shared phallic and venomous characteristics of this manifestation are no coincidence. Indeed, sexuality often seems to be at the root of both destructive and creative acts. The serpent can thus be seen as a channel through which the abyssal chaos penetrates our formed mental worlds and permits new creative acts…”