Israel through a scuffed lens

By Julia Weiner, June 20, 2008

Judy Price’s films play with ambiguity of vision and interpretation

Earlier this year, Judy Price curated a programme of archival films exploring the British Mandate in Palestine. The show was greeted favourably, but the curator herself was criticised after the publication of private emails she had sent led to suggestions that she was anti-Zionist.

Though she is a member of the pro-Arab group Jews for Justice for Palestinians, she advocates a two-state solution. 

She says she hopes that “one day Israel will become a just and ethical place”, drawing inspiration from the prominent role Jews played in the Russian Revolution of 1917, and from her own experience witnessing the end of apartheid in South Africa.

Price regularly travels to the Israel and the Palestinian territories, and an exhibition of films made there over the past three years is currently on show in London. 

She does not stage scenes especially for the camera. The films are all vignettes that caught her attention but may provide comment on the complexities and ambiguities of the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

They include Saffron in Jerusalem, where she captures a roof terrace bathed in sunlight and a yellow butterfly flying across the camera’s range. Flags fly in the distance but you cannot tell if they are Israeli or Palestinian. 

The soundtrack adds to the sense of not quite knowing where you are. It starts with an Islamic call to prayer which then merges with church bells.  What does emerge is the realisation that Jews do not have their own call to prayer, no doubt the result of centuries of trying to avoid attention. 

In Time Line Jericho, a ride in a cable car provides both wonderful views and a deeply destabilising experience.

Meanwhile, two of Price’s films are being shown at the Imperial War Museum as part of a season of films examining the British Mandate for Palestine. 

Price has worked with the museum’s archival material, dislocating the footage from its specific use and purpose to draw out new interpretations. In Reel, she collects stills from the archival films that are scratched or scuffed, overexposed, numbered or marked with black cue dots. Together they evoke a sense of the incompleteness of these historical images, suggesting the blind spots of those who made the films. 

In Assemblage, a film of a British observation kite balloon used during the Mandate period is overlaid with a montage of sounds from religious orders, sounds that merge into one, confusing identities and again resulting in ambiguity. 

Judy Price: Within this Narrow Strip of Land is at Danielle Arnaud, 123 Kennington Road, London SE11 until June 22. Assemblage and Reel will be screened at the Imperial War Museum until June 29. Tel 020 7416 5320 for times and dates.

Last updated: 4:58pm, June 23 2008