The work presented in the exhibition developed from my MA thesis which focused on municipal practices in enforcing the planning and building policies in Jerusalem, which have been creating a major housing crisis for Palestinians in the city. I was looking to investigate how these mechanisms work and are sustained, but due to the political sensitivity of the issue I wasn’t granted any access to the everyday activities and people in the enforcement department. Being a student and not interested in any particular case, I obtained a permission to”only” browse the photographs in classified buildings files. Inspectors, who are also the photographers and are in charge of compiling the files, treat the images as univocal pieces of evidence of a crime committed.
For me, the photos were multilayered sources of information for investigating seemingly mundane practices in enforcing the law and turning it into a living reality. The exhibition “Snapshots” traces the Jerusalem Municipality’s visual practices of surveillance and enforcement of planning policies in Jerusalem. It presents an ethnographic journey made with the photographs I copied from the files in the Archive. Observing the photographs I could retrace practices, events and patterns in the work of inspectors which I was initially not authorized to interview. Later, based on the interpretive work I did, I got a permission to discuss the photographs with inspectors and on a separate route I searched for the photographed Palestinians, to include their knowledge and voices in the ethnography I was looking to create.
De-archived, these photographs compiled with interpretations and conversations, are not anymore a copy of their source. Rather, in presenting the photography along with its extended ethnography I was seeking to interfere and engage with the authority that produced them, enable this visual documentation to regain its political potential as sources of evidence, interpretation and influence. The exhibition I presented in Zochrot made it possible to view the visual mass of administrative documentation open and spread like a panoramic landscape that calls for a collective as much as personal and singular interpretation. The archival intimacy which hides injustice and oppression with a guise of impartial legal procedures was disrupted, and the private (classified) space became open to a public. The photographs, de-archived and represented openly in the gallery, were creating a space in which we are all authorized – to access, view, interpret and question the acts of the state.