This publication accompanies the group exhibition Otherwise Occupied featuring the work of two Palestinian artists, Bashir Makhoul and Aissa Deebi at the Venice Biennale 2013 from 29 May to 30 June 2013.

'"Otherwise Occupied" is an exhibition featuring two established Palestinian artists: Bashir Makhoul and Aissa Deebi, and presents artworks exploring the plurality of Palestinian positions. There exist simultaneously no Palestinian state and many Palestinian states. It is the perfect example of what Benedict Anderson termed the nationhood of "imagined communities."

As Palestinian artists their work is unavoidably occupied with political engagement (even if engaged otherwise). However, as both Makhoul and Deebi make clear in Otherwise Occupied, it is vital that the idea of Palestine is not defined by the occupation and this exhibition’s title indicates their commitment to other ways of imagining the nation outside and beyond the conflict. Makhoul and Deebi as artists also maintain a deep interest in the aspects of play and performance within art as an alternative occupation; an occupation that remains marginal, though vital, to the workaday world. Art is capable of occupying cultural spaces that are otherwise inaccessible or invisible, the intersections of disciplines, cultural spaces and knowledge. Art offers ways of thinking "otherwise".

The artworks presented here by Makhoul and Deebi are artistically and critically questioning the Palestinian identity; thinking through the de-territorialisation of Palestine and the issues of dispersal, plurality, and dispossession. Both artists, whether exploring contemporary colonial actions, turning them into a collective relation to space, enacting a dangerous "game", or digging into the archive and researching particular cases in history where the Palestinian identity was integrated within a global communist identity-seeking utopia, are enacting the performativity of thinking "otherwise". 

This exhibition approaches ideas of occupation not only as an intractable political problem of the on-going colonisation of Palestine, but also in the sense of a form of employment. To be otherwise occupied is to be busy elsewhere, to be engaged in activities outside the programme. For both Makhoul and Deebi, artists of diaspora (Shatat), the "otherwise" opens up an imaginary, parallel space in which to think about ideas of place, identity and belonging. Another space which is outside the prescribed confines of colonialism, and beyond the claims of nationalism that are both staked out and opened up by global cultural events such as the Venice Biennale. Here there is also space for play and for thinking otherwise.' - from project's website.

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Preface: Otherwise Occupied


Introduction: The Garden and the Trial as Camouflage

- Ryan BISHOP, Gordon HON

Otherwise Representational: The Risk of Nations without States

- Rawan SHARAF

'The Unachieved State of a Busy Garden'

- Jonathan HARRIS

The Return

- Sarah ROGERS

A Self without Guarantees: Thoughts on Pain in the Work of Aissa Deebi

- Anneka LENSSEN

The Fantasy of an Unoccupied Community

- Valentin ROMA

Material Occupations

- Sheila CRANE

Gaza is Everywhere

- Stephen GRAHAM

Between the Castle and the Village

- John BECK

Otherwise Occupied
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Otherwise Occupied