Tirtza Even and Toby Millman Explore Shifting Views of Occupation at Spoke

August 20, 2009 · Print This Article

This Saturday August 22nd is the last chance to see a two-person show at Spoke that uses multiple perspectives and narrative strategies to explore everyday life in the occupied territories. Tirtza Even and Toby Millman’s exhibition addresses “the characteristics and consequences of the ongoing Israeli occupation on life in Palestine,” according to the press release. I haven’t seen the show yet–it’s only open on Saturdays, and the last few weekends have been kicking my ass, childcare-wise– but I’m planning to this weekend. Luckily, Even and Millman both have well fleshed-out websites that enable me to preview their work here in order to entice you to visit, too–unless, of course, you’re not a weekend slacker like I am and have seen it already.

still from Tirtza Even's Once A Wall, or a Ripple Remains

still from Tirtza Even’s Once A Wall, or a Ripple Remains

Video and documentary artist Tirtza Even is on the Art & Design faculty at the University of Michigan. Her work focuses on “the less overt manifestations of complex and sometimes extreme social/political dynamics in specific locations such as Palestine, Turkey, Spain, the U.S., and Germany,” as she puts it on her website. At Spoke, she’s showing a 3-D animation that draws together multiple narratives of life in occupied territory. A recent video work, Once a Wall, or a Ripple Remains (2008) is part of what Even describes as an ongoing media project that examines “the shifting history” of this contested political and psychic terrain via a moving image pastiche of documentary footage, audio voiceovers, and various skewed perspectives. You can see excerpts from this and other related videos on Even’s website.

Karin and I were sitting on the bed across from Iman, Olfat, Suzan and other girls, drinking tea and gossiping when Umm Ismail left. The next thing I knew, she had returned and was pulling a thickly embroidered dress over our heads and telling Manal to get the camera.

Karin and I were sitting on the bed across from Iman, Olfat, Suzan and other girls, drinking tea and gossiping when Umm Ismail left. The next thing I knew, she had returned and was pulling a thickly embroidered dress over our heads and telling Manal to get the camera.

Toby Millman‘s Stories from Palestine is a series of ink and cut-paper drawings captioned by narrative vignettes culled from his 2006 visit to Palestine. Many of the drawings were traced from photographs and maps produced by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for the Occupied Palestinian Territories (maps that are always under revision, as they are updated every few months to reflect current situations in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza).  Snippets from Millman’s encounters with various Palestinians are interwoven, their elliptical relationship to the cut-out imagery complicating any straightforward “read” on life in occupied Palestine. The subject of Occupation is a complicated one, to say the least, making the need for a nuanced and multifaceted understanding of it all the more vital. This show looks quite promising in that regard, and I’m looking forward to seeing it.

Spoke is at 119 N. Peoria #3D, Chicago, IL 60607. Hours are Saturdays from 11a.m.-5p.m.

3 thoughts on “Tirtza Even and Toby Millman Explore Shifting Views of Occupation at Spoke”

  1. With regard to war, the work of photojournalists has always seemed most honest. And therein lies one peril: The true nature of the thing, graphically presented, is so horrible that it forces decent people to turn away. It’s inhuman.

    Millman & Even’s multimedia installation is constructed of vignettes: moments, or short episodes, of human experience–drawn from the space and history that they observed the Palestinian people to inhabit, physically and psychologically.

    Past conflicts and today’s children? It felt as though there was a particular emphasis on the youth…or maybe the generational nature of the conflict’s cycle?

    Their installation contained text, low-relief sculpture, graphics on paper, audio and visual on screen. I missed any attention paid to the the religious dimension of the conflict. Israel seemed present–but cool and distant, nameless and faceless: the generic soldier or protester with whom someone interacted.

    The purpose of the whole seemed less to involve a comprehensive lesson/plan/solution, and rather more to put a human face on the Palestinian story.

    Opposite the photojournalism mentioned in the first paragraph, Millman and Even’s work is rather quiet, small and polite; so being, it presents a peril of another sort.

    + + +

    I wonder always, Claudine, how many Palestinians are descendants of Israel. Failing to acknowledge familial bonds, it’s difficult to imagine a resolution in the context of competing nation states.

    If you need help to get the show, let me know.

  2. FYI: Toby Millman is a woman.

    Great show: hope that you saw it.

    Millman’s letterpress prints and cut-out drawings were succinct and clear with a clarity and sharpness garnered from her use of a pared down process of removal.

    The accompanying narrative text seemed like slices of her life in the Palestinian territory within Israel. It was as if the larger problems endemic to the geographic location were rendered accessible and even manageable by her personal perspective. Removed from that larger continuum they became scaled to the intimate dimensions of her experience.

    As a result I found myself tuning in acutely, rather than the overwhelming feeling of futility I usually feel when confronted with news about the continuing difficulties within those contesting territories.

  3. Claudine Ise says:

    What the hell is it about me and getting people’s genders wrong?? First I thought Blair Kamin and Lynn Becker were women, now I find that Toby is a woman when I thought she was a man. I should just stop with the assumptions, huh? I did see the show, and liked it very much — though I felt it functioned best as a little taste of both of these artists’ larger projects. I would love to see solo shows by Tirtza and Toby — I’d like to see Tirtza’s installation given lots of space, so that a fuller experience could be had. And I’d like to see a room full of Toby’s cut paper drawings so that a fuller narrative sense could emerge. (If her book is not too expensive I will probably buy it as a means of achieving this). Deirdre I love your point about “tuning in acutely” rather than feeling overwhelemed as we often do when listening to news reports. I very much agree that this strategy absolutely worked here – and is, perhaps, one that art alone can achieve. I also think Paul’s point about the achievements of photojournalism in this regard is a powerful and persuasive one – though I wonder if the pressures a photojournalist might have to “get the shot” i.e. the dramatic meaningful moment in time, the potentially melodramatic one, does sometimes cloud the everyday moments that Millman in particular focuses on here and which are typically left out of Occupation narratives such as this one. But I’m speaking in generalizations here not looking at any news photographs at the moment so take this speculation w/a grain of salt.

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