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A Conversation with Artist Dor Guez: Archives, Narrative and Memory

Webinar Recording

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On October 13, Jerusalem-born artist and scholar Dor Guez discussed his groundbreaking work - at the intersection of photography, video and archives - and his most recent body of work, Letters from the Greater Maghreb. He was joined in the session by Dr. Rotem Rozental.

About the Event

Dor Guez's artistic practice explores the relationship between art, language, trauma, memory, and displacement by combining historical ethos with individual accounts. In this lecture, Bezalel Academy of the Arts and Design Professor Guez focused particularly on his most recent body of work, Letters from the Greater Maghreb, which is currently on view at The Jewish Museum New York; Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg; and Dvir Gallery, Tel Aviv. The work emanates from a personal archive – a single manuscript in Judeo-Arabic that survived the journey of his grandparents by boat from Tunisia to Israel in the 1950’s. In Tunisia, the artist’s grandparents ran the Jewish Theater, where plays were performed in Judeo-Arabic - a dialect that combines Hebrew and Arabic characters, and which is no longer in use today. His grandfather wrote the plays, while his grandmother was a lead actress and costume designer. When the family emigrated from Tunisia, a water leak in the boat destroyed all the original manuscripts except for this one, that became the starting point for Guez’s new body of work. As he describes: “The words are engulfed in abstract spots and these abstractions become a metaphor for the harmonious conjunction between two Semitic languages, between one mother tongue and another, and between homeland and a new country.”

Additionally, Guez drew insight from other archives that have inspired his work, including the American Colony Archive in Jerusalem, the Pinchas Lavon Institute for Labour Movement Research in Tel Aviv, and the Christian Palestinian Archive, which the artist established in 2006.

Sponsored by the UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies. Co-sponsored by the Department of Information Studies, Department of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures, Center for Near Eastern Studies, Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies, and Artis


About the Speakers

Dor Guez is an artist and a scholar. He was born in Jerusalem to a Palestinian family on his mother's side and a family of Jewish immigrants from Tunisia on his father's. Guez's photography, video, essays, and lecture-performances explore the relationship between art, narrative, and memory. Interrogating personal experiences and official accounts of the past, Guez raises questions about contemporary art's role in narrating unwritten histories and re-contextualizing visual and written documents. In the past 20 years, his studies and artistic work focus on archival materials and photographic practices of the Middle East and North Africa, as well as mapping traces and structures of violence in the landscape. To date, eight catalogues have been published internationally about Guez's practice, and his work has been displayed in over 40 solo exhibitions and numerous group exhibitions worldwide. Guez received his Ph.D. from Tel Aviv University in 2014 and became a full professor at Bezalel Academy of the Arts and Design in 2018. He is the founder of the CPA (Christian-Palestinian Archive), the head of the Master of Fine Arts Program at Bezalel, and the co-director of Seaport: Mediterranean Curatorial Residency. He shares his time between Jaffa and New York.


Rotem Rozental is Chief Curator and Senior Director of Art and Creative Programming at American Jewish University in Los Angeles. She is Faculty Member at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, and recently curated the virtual exhibition Dana Arieli: The Zionist Phantom with The Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University. She received her M.A. from the Cohn Institute for History and Philosophy of Sciences and Ideas at Tel Aviv University in 2011, and her Ph.D. from the Art History Department at Binghamton University, New York, in 2019. Her book, Pre-State Photographic Archives, and the Zionist Movement is forthcoming with Routledge. Rotem’s research examines the conflicted meeting points of photographic and archival technologies with civic spaces. Her writings about photography and contemporary art appeared in Artforum.com, Tablet, The Forward, Philosophy of Photography, Tohu Magazine, and Doc! Magazine, among other outlets. Rotem’s work has been recognized and supported by various organizations, including Artis, Independent Curators International (ICI) and the Center for Jewish History.

DISCLAIMER: The views or opinions of our guest speakers and the content of their presentations do not necessarily reflect the views of the UCLA Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies. Hosting speakers does not constitute an endorsement of the speaker's views or opinions.