Eye on the prize: Turner Prize nominee Rosalind Nashashibi
- Rachael Cloughton
- 5 September 2017
Glasgow School of Art graduate Nashashibi is one of this year's Turner Prize nominees, here she discusses the the works that got her selected
In June 2014, Rosalind Nashashibi travelled to Gaza to begin work on a new commission from the Imperial War Museum. The day before she arrived, three Israeli settlers had been kidnapped and were later found killed – a crime attributed to Hamas. This was the catalyst for Isael'sOperation Protective Edge, a catastrophic 50-day war that killed over 2200 people (mostly Palestinian civilians) and destroyed vast expanses of Gaza.
Nashashibi's film captures the time between the kidnapping and the war – the building tensions, 'the oncoming of violence' as she describes it. But the final work, 'Electrical Gaza' challenges expectations of what this might mean. Nashashibi captures the day-to-day realities of living in Gaza; horses cool off from the heat in the sea, kids play in the street, people mill around shops and market stalls. These are scenes of 'routine emergency' – a blockade so longstanding that it has become normalised; life goes on. Tensions are captured less with the live footage and more with Nashashibi's artistic interventions; animations rupture the narrative, often directly copying live footage to suggest a life lived at a remove from reality, from the rest of reality outside of their zone, or revealing what the camera might not capture (or have been allowed to capture) like the threatening presence of Israeli troops on street corners. At one point you can hear the artist breathing, in another, a black circle expands across the screen obliterating the footage beneath and serving as a chilling momento mori. 'I wanted to capture the feeling of enclosure – of being under siege, that's how it feels to be there,' explains Nashashibi. 'It's difficult to translate into words and it took a long time to find the language for film.'
These edits equally jolt the audience from their cosy position as passive observers, reminding us that this is a film and therefore a very partial view of a territory so impenetrable that it exists almost entirely through images. 'It's meant to be a very subjective film – I'm showing what it was like for me, it's not an objective study,' she says.
Nashashibi has been nominated for the Turner Prize this year for her work in Gaza, and also for the project that followed – 'Vivian's Garden,' a film commissioned for Documenta 14 and shown in Kassel this year. This work concentrates on Swiss-Austrian painter Vivian Suter, and her mother, the nonagenarian artist Elisabeth Wild, and their life in Panajachel, Guatemala. It is a visceral, joyful film – Nashashibi's camera slowly wanders over the lush flora of their garden, the luscious fresh food they eat and their vibrant, colourful home. 'For me, it was a really incredible place – a magical, healing place,' explains Nashashibi. 'It helped me – I visited at an important time in my life. My marriage broke up over the three times I visited [between 2015 and 2016] and my children and I moved into a flat near my mother.'
The most affecting part of 'Vivian's Garden' is the relationship between Suter and Wild and the intimate glimpse Nashashibi gifts us through her camera. It is hard to believe the pair were strangers to Nashashibi before the commission – she is granted such complete access to their world. 'Adam Szymczyk, the director of Documenta, suggested I meet them. He helped us to find each other.' If this sounds cathartic, it's because it was: 'As artists we look for different models of working, Vivian showed me a model to follow,' explains Nashashibi. 'The ease and speed in which they both work, breaking down the boundary between life and practice – I feel now my daily practice has become lighter.'
In some respects, 'Electrical Gaza' and 'Vivian's Garden' present two different propositions; the former is a prison, a gritty, grey, dangerous enclosure with impenetrable boundary lines, while the former is a bright, protective oasis where the boundaries between work and play, inside and outside, even the roles of mother and child are blurred and exchanged. But tensions and danger lurk in 'Vivian's Garden', though they are discreet and ambiguous. At one point, Elisabeth tells talks about a 'scary' man who poisoned the dogs and trapped her in the house. In another, she talks about a catastrophic flood. In both instances, their world feels as much a prison as a place of refuge. What's more, Vivian and Elisabeth's lives are entirely supported by the domestic labour of their staff – all Guatemalan natives who cook, clean and step outside of their peaceful haven to collect groceries, newspapers and materials, which make Suter and Wild's highly creative existence possible. Hierarchies of power are prevalent here, too, and dictate and determine access – physical and otherwise.
Though Nashashibi cannot discuss the new work she is making for the Turner Prize until the show opens on September 26, she tentatively explains that she is interested in showing the nominated work in a new context. She is also full of appreciation for her fellow nominees – 'I've known Hurvin [Anderson] for 12 years – we both had a studio at Gasworks at one point, and I've known Andrea [Buttner] for around 10 years too. We showed in Germany together and have met quite a few times,' she says. 'It's a really great group of artists and mix of media – and it's great to be in a year that I'd really like to go and see!'
Turner Prize 2017 exhibition, Ferens Gallery, Hull, Tue 26 Sep–Sun 7 Jan. The winner of the prize is announced on Tue 5 Dec.