Idit Nathan

Art of play in zones of conflict - the case of Israel-Palestine

Central Saint Martins

'My work today arises from an interest in comprehending the mechanism developed by a society that has accepted war as part of the routine of living…'(Oscar Muñoz)

'Perception Requires Involvement.' (Antoni Muntadas)

This project examines Contemporary Art Practice that employs physical, ‘playful’ interaction in the context of zones of conflict.

Using my visual arts practice and my Israeli and theatre practice background, I will investigate contemporary, ‘playful’ artistic practices in zones of conflict, focusing on Israel-Palestine. I use the term Israel-Palestine to define both the actual sovereignty and historical space of the territory. It includes the area of the expanded Israeli state (established in 1948) over Palestine and the 1967 Occupied Palestinian Territories. This term is commonly used by people from both sides of the conflict taking a critical view of the current state of affairs. The current state of affairs is one where there are seemingly two states, whereas de facto the Israeli state has disabled any potential statehood by its occupation of Palestinian land. Some of the works mentioned in this proposal, and indeed in the project as a whole, challenge this very concept as a crucial part of their structure and mode of operation.

This critical approach informs the project. It explores this very specific context of a ‘stubborn history of intimacy’ (Hochberg 2007), where two people share a contested space, and where historical and memorial narratives are often harnessed for various political and national discourses, informing artistic practices on both sides of the conflict.

I see ‘playful’ artistic practice as one that involves the audience in a sociable, physical and participatory way. Huizinga’s definition of ‘play’ as a free activity, standing outside ‘ordinary’ life, being perceived as ‘not serious’ yet absorbs the player, has no material gains attached to it but nevertheless proceeds within set boundaries of time and space, will be a useful starting point.

My current practice explores how, through using the ‘playful’ with its sociable, potentially didactic ‘hands on’ physical aspects, the viewers become active participants. And whereas often the assumption is that participatory practice will tend to move towards the world wise web and the purely digital, this project will explore the use of tactile and physical interaction that takes place between the work and the audience in the real space.

As this subject of investigation is drawn from my memories and experiences of growing up in contested spaces and zones of conflict, a ‘dissonance’ or even a ‘paradox’ may occur. These inherent contradictions derived from the juxtaposing of war/conflict/violence with play/games/humour/fun lie at the very heat of this project. And whilst one can trace a long tradition of works, and even whole exhibitions dealing with art as ‘playful’, as well as an apparent interest of artists in zones of conflict, the intersection of these two, which this project is concerned with, remains uncharted territory.


Pam Skelton (Director of Studies), 

Dr Caterina Albano

Emeritus Professor Anne Tallentire