A new exhibition at Open Eye Gallery explores how we visualise power. Visual Rights looks at how images expose uneven distributions of power and shape the way we understand geography.
From early attempts at mapping the world, to modern satellite imagery, territories – and people’s right to inhabit them – have continually been established and redrawn.
This process often becomes concentrated in areas of conflict and geographical contest.
In recent history, this has included Ireland, Kashmir and Ukraine.
Curated by Gary Bratchford, Visual Rights presents work from artists in Israel, Palestine and the UK to examine this process.
Visual Rights brings together different methods of revealing how power subtly operates and affects the fabric of everyday life.
Perspectives include surveying underground water pipelines allowing non-native plant life to flourish, photographing areas that have their electricity cut off at night, and the view from drones – a view synonymous with modern conflict.
Tarek Al-Ghoussein was born in Kuwait.
Despite having Palestinian parents, he is unable to visit the country.
His works show fading barriers and lines drawn in the desert, many of which feature a green mesh material used to mark out the land.
For Tarek, these barriers in the desert refer to the Green Line, established in 1967 to mark out the border between Israel and Palestine.
Throughout the years, this border has been contested, crossed and pushed back.
In Garden State, UK artist Corinne Silva considers how gardening, like mapping, is a way of dividing and allocating territory.
Over three years Silva photographed public and private gardens in 22 Israeli housing settlements.
Clusters of images in the wall installation plot out the suburban gardens that contribute to the reshaping and renaming of these contested lands.
Yazan Khalili lives and works in and out of Palestine.
His work uncovers the power dynamics and hidden politics at play within technology, landscape and institutions.
His background in architecture allows him to look at landscape in a critical manner, deconstructing colonial visual discourse around Palestinian landscape.
In 2002, he became stuck in Birzeit for several weeks due to restrictions on his movement from Israeli government curfews.
During this time, the town experienced power cuts, throwing the area into darkness and highlighting the towns across the border.
Khalili captures these dark landscapes using long-exposure photography, naming each image after the camera settings used to achieve it.
Across the world, aerial photography is available at a resolution of 0.5m2/pixel, through technologies such as Google Earth.
In the area around Israel the resolution is restricted to 2.5m2/pixel – a deliberate blurring of the territory.
This makes it difficult to document the land, and recognise changes over time.
Anti-Mapping is an ongoing project to make these geographies more visible.
It creates high-resolution documentation of the landscape as alternatives to the maps presented by the establishment.
A bird’s eye view
Hagit Keysar’s Restricted Zone: Temple Mount, co-created with Barak Brinker, tests technological and civilian restrictions over Jerusalem’s aerial space.
A no-fly zone surrounds Temple Mount, or al-Aqsa, a site that has become the heart of a religious and political conflict.
A code in the flight interface of drones manufactured by the company DJI prevents them from taking off in, or passing through, the area.
These invisible boundaries are revealed by flying a drone with a camera around the zone’s perimeter.
In doing so, Keysar and Brinker reveal invisible walls.
They expose how political, theological and technological power systems overlap and reinforce each other.
Another project by Keysar, A Civic View From Above, also takes to the skies to examine power struggles on the ground.
Keysar uses a technique of ‘Do-It-Yourself aerial photography,’ originally developed by Public Lab for environmental health and justice investigations.
Using a camera attached to a kite or balloon, she works with local activists and communities to gain a birds’-eye view of contested spaces.
In doing so, she is able to deploy aerial photography as a human rights testimony against discriminatory spatial and political practices.
Visual Rights is on at Open Eye Gallery until March 22.
Entrance is free.