Specter Winds
Ami Steinitz, Curator 


 In  2019 and 2022, Gil Muallem Doron attended artist residency programs in Umm al-Fahm and Catalonia, Spain. Both sides of the Mediterranean, for him, are fraught with history of displacement and resettlement. His parents were born in Iraq and Bulgaria; he came into the world in London. grew up in Israel. and today lives in Britain. His peregrinations  are the  results of wars and conflicts that although of ancient origin. have taken on lethal 
dimensions in the modern era under the baton of nation-states and advanced weapons. For Gil  
Muallem  Doran.  displacement  in  its  psychological. human  and political  senses has become the 
setting of an artistic quest in which visual language attempts to sense absence that words miss. 
This unseen is neither abstract nor vague; instead it  is built cumulatively from strata of human 
fragments that lack a single way of connecting. Gil Muallem Doran lends a story substance by 
combining voices and tools arranging them out of historical order or away from pure formalism and 
including documentary  web of accounts of displacement  and publications  of human-rights  
organizations. In Umm al­ Fahm he recorded and photographed the histories of residents who were 
banished from the lands of al-Lajjun village near Megiddo in 1948. becoming in effect present 
absentees. In Spain. he cross-referenced video clips of built spaces and scenes of water in Gerona 
and other cities from which Jews and Muslims had been expelled some becoming anusim (forced 
converts). Marranos (crypto-Jews) or Moriscos (crypto-Muslims) living their past as the  keepers 
of an present-absentee secret.

Muallem  Daron's  family  is  linked  to  the  secrets  of  these  anusim.  Matana.  the  original 
surname  of  his father from Iraq, alludes to  the  family's  possible  origin in Portugal. His 
maternal  grandmother  speaks  Ladino.  a  language  that  migrated  to  Bulgaria  with  the 
deportees from Spain. The personal. social. human. and psychological elements and the unseen and 
revealed political forces come together at the exhibition in the manner of the story and its 
contemporary mode of representation.

Fluctuations    and    transitions.    frictions    and    cross-references.    relocations    and 
translocations give these works their composition and their position in the gallery space. 
Everything is out  of place. unplaced. displaced. One may observe some of the  works on one's 
smartphone in their entirety by scanning a QR code. Impromptu structures that look like a tent and 
walls hover in the air. Archive documentation from al-Lajjun is superimposed on the images of 
refugees from the village who now live in Umm al-Fahm; they clutch and present "blank pages" as a 
way of mentioning and resisting the wasteland myth. The absence of the place to which Gil Muallem 
Doran gives presence in his works challenges and reflects upon the  sense of present time by 
arranging an encounter  with a Jewish­ Arab fate from another  era-roughly  corresponding  to  the  
discovery  of America  at  the onset of Western colonialism and to a present pursued by its  
specters. The foreignness that these phantoms created is experienced in this non-place. bearing a 
muteness that the works imagine as a place of dialogue.

Contemporary art  no longer offers one more repaired future reality; instead. it  implants
possible  sensations. thoughts.  and forms in existential  moments  of a palpable society. A 
possible metaphor. writes Walter Benjamin in his Theses on the Philosophy of History, is tethered 
inseparably to  the  metaphor  of  redemption  and also finds  expression  in  its observation of 
the past. Benjamin relates to the past as a culture that has collapsed; he seeks a way to  
reassemble  it  by means of unfulfilled possibilities. For this purpose. the works act  among the  
various strata of quotidian  life. among facade. narrative. images. communities. ideas. and 
politics. and by means of practices that urge the viewers of art to participate in its preparation 
and presentation.

Benjamin's hopes of reorganization proved fruitless. In World War II. Benjamin fled for his life 
from the Germans who pursued him on account  of his Jewishness. He managed to cross into Spain but  
took his life there in the belief that he would be extradited and not given asylum. He was interred 
in an unmarked provisional  grave in a Catholic  cemetery overlooking the  Mediterranean. his bones 
scattered and their place unknown. Thus he became a kind of Marrano. in his death in Spain. 

"Passages," a monument created by the artist Dani Karavan in the  memory of Benjamin and of 
refugees generally, is inserted amid video clips of the scenes of water and built spaces from which 
all expellees from Spain were sent into exile. The Mediterranean today is the same sea that 
connects the historical strands with the present -   a sea that is at  once a place of yearning  
and of loss. a sea where on the border of Jaffa Mualem Doron photographed an expectation of 
returning along with a Palestinian student. This non-place  place like the  sea carries a 
historical trauma  and present-day fears that become at the  exhibition  an understructure of art 
that floats like a raft across an unsteady reality.

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