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International Academy of Art Palestine

In September 2016, Jacob Kerray spent a month teaching and researching in Palestine for CCA’s pilot residency in the region.

Focusing on Scottish-based artists, the residency, supported by Glasgow Life Twinning Funds, was specifically tailored to stimulate teaching and learning between Scotland and Palestine. Kerray was based at the International Art Academy Palestine (IAAP) in Ramallah and presented a two week teaching period for the current students, and also travelled to Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Here, he writes on his experience of the residency.

I would like to thank the CCA for facilitating the opportunity to travel to Palestine in what was a huge privilege to visit this significant place for me both historically and currently. It was somewhat of a pilgrimage visiting the places that all the stories I was told as a boy were said to have taken place, and get a brief insight into the situation in Palestine at present. And thanks to the IAAP in Ramallah for so generously hosting me, giving me such a warm welcome and providing materials, means and flexibility in facilitating the project.

I had attempted to visit with a level of ignorance.

A month is not really long enough to take in such a place, therefore the ability to evaluate one’s experience becomes difficult. I simply was there. The overriding feeling that I can just about articulate is one of duality, within everything. The outline of the residency in particular from the academy was to investigate 'lived realities', however the duration made this idea of 'lived realities' redundant as I was able to visit and move, or 'observe'. This freedom of movement I possessed played into every experience I had there. I found the occupied territories and checkpoints difficult both objectively and emotionally first in terms of being considered a 'higher class'; of citizen with a British passport and second what that level of control does to any human and the primordial state of fear and paranoia. This constantly reinforced a fear and an awareness of my colonial conditioning and the seemingly unchangeable geopolitical situation. The feeling of segregation and oppression is palpable in most scenarios; it permeates the culture, one of paranoia, apathy, anger, loss and hopelessness. Despite so many engagements and visions that were joyful and wondrous, it was amidst a state of flux. This also reinforced the feeling of chaos I think is felt globally and is not only a Palestinian problem. 'Over there' it is just far more obvious as these dualities and oppressions play out far more metaphorically as if in a Sci-Fi film or our collective past.

The time at the academy in Ramallah was particularly interesting as I had a more prolonged insight into the students' 'lived realities' but this still could only be to a degree. The idea behind the collaborative mural was to speed up this form of communication and attempt to eliminate or chip away at the notion of pedagogy that I feel the students were particularly aware of. One thing I was acutely aware of was the lack of self-expression in the students, it quickly confronted me as another western luxury. The self, something that the western intellectual sees as so important, was seen as either insignificant or soft which I feel is appropriate in the functionality of art especially in the west or was not spoken of leaving a feeling of what I considered repression. Within a society of such national identity, politics and religion the collective which before I had the preconception as a positive I began to find troubling in a fast, ever-expanding, individualistic, technologically-bound society, hence apathy and confusion.

There was a ‘doubleness’ everywhere leaving me with the prevailing feeling of confusion and anger at the restrictions we have continually in many guises imposed on our existence.

My memory of leaving is very clear. After going from Ramallah centre late afternoon through Quallandia checkpoint by bus with western cartoon characters, in particular Spongebob Squarepants, flashing through my mind into Jerusalem where I would sit and smoke fags for a few hours then into a taxi to Tel Aviv Airport. Night fell, with my British passport I sped down the lush, smooth, tastefully-lit concrete towards beams of light in the night sky as David Guetta's 2016 Euro hymn 'This One's For You' blared through the radio. It was stark.

After hours of security checks and paranoia, I angrily stomped around the departure lounge to Rammstein's 2004 Hit 'Amerika' and felt like a maniac.

Jacob Kerray, 2016