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In and Out of the Box: Bashir Makhoul's Forbidden City
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Dr John Beck
Theory, Culture & Society
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Bashir Makhoul’s Beijing installation
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is a maze made out of lenticular images of a Palestinian village that leads to a stack of cardboard boxes that could be a town, a military training camp, or just a heap of damaged packing containers. This article reads the installation through an initial misrecognition, seeing the boxes as a version of ancient Anasazi cliff dwellings. This displacement, where one place recalls somewhere else, is pursued through a discussion of W.J.T. Mitchell’s reflections on comparative ‘promised lands’, Israeli artist Larry Abramson’s notion of abstraction as camouflage, Eyal Weizman’s analysis of simulated battle-spaces, and Mark Twain’s critical reading of desert spaces in the Western US and Palestine. The article argues that Makhoul’s work calls up a series of associations between times and places that speaks not only to the specific (Israel/Palestine) but to a broader global hermeneutics of empire based on symbolic overdetermination and strategic concealment and erasure.
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