Walk the line in Palestine

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Explore the West Bank perimeter through Mark Thomas’ gonzo rambling and Francis Alÿs’ action painting

Art Threat: “Currently, it is possible to experience aspects of the Palestinian political drama through complementary events on both sides of the Atlantic; through the work of the British comedian and activist, Mark Thomas, in London and the Belgian artist Francis Alÿs in New York.
Thomas has been described as John Pilger with laughs. He would prefer to be known as the the Hunter S. Thompson of hiking; a gonzo hiker, a hiker with attitude, a point-of-view and a tale to tell through personal experience, anecdote and humour. After a decade or more using his stand-up routine and his activist cunning in defence of civil liberties in the UK, Thomas decided to take his talents abroad.

Curiosity and political instinct, together with an unhealthy interest in the Guinness Book of Records, led him to Palestine and to the 723 km barrier erected by Israel to mark the frontier with the Palestinian West Bank.

(Extreme Rambling with Mark Thomas, Tricycle Theatre, London, UK, May 16th – 28th, 2011)

A Story of Deception is an exhibition in New York (but earlier this year in London and Brussels), by Francis Alÿs, the nomadic Belgian artist based in Mexico City. In the exhibition there is a work called The Green Line (Sometimes doing something poetic can become political and sometimes doing something political can become poetic). In it the artist walks the Green Line through Jerusalem, a temporary cease-fire boundary created initially by the UN after the Arab-Israeli war of 1947–48 but redrawn by the Israeli authorities in 2004 as a more permanent barrier that incorporates gains made at the expense of Jordan after the Six Day war in 1967.

The line has no legality and offends against Alÿs’ belief in a world without borders. In original UN maps the demarcation line was marked in green ink. In the work, Alÿs carries a tin of green paint, with a hole in the bottom, through the streets of Jerusalem. He dribbles paint along the division between Arab and Jew, a symbolic act, an act of petty vandalism inviting an (over)reaction from the israeli authorities, a gesture, a joke. It is an action painting, both poetic and political, an ephemeral work which, like the boundary it follows, will dissolve with time.
Sometimes Doing Something Poetic Can Become Political and Sometimes Doing Something Political Can Become Poetic

Francis Alÿs trails a line of green paint along the Green Line between Israel and Palestine. Member of the Israeli Knesset Yael Dayan narrates.