Transcending Isolation and Creating New Representations

The International Academy of Art Palestine (IAAP) was founded in 2006 by a group of artists and individuals committed to the development of the visual arts in Palestine thanks to a major grant from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway and in partnership with the Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHiO) the Academy opened its doors to the first intake of students in 2007. The Academy of Art worked to develop a unique Bachelors in contemporary visual art program in which students would gain exposure and knowledge in a broad range of practices in the field of visual art, including painting, drawing, 3d, installation, video, photography, performance; and includes social intervention supported by study of important theoretical and historical debates, including contemporary critical theory, spatial politics, history of art practices in the region as well as the works of major writers and theoreticians. In implementing this model the academy has subsequently based its structure on a rotational group of visiting lecturers who gave seminars, workshops, lectures, and tutorials. Artists were invited to meet students in tutorials and develop projects to be implemented on return visits with students. This has enabled us to implement a dynamic program relevant to the current debates in the arts and that are firmly grounded and informed according to the relevance of the location.

IAAP has been very fortunate in the distinguished artists who have lectured and taught at IAAP that include: Aaron Bergman, Emily Jacir, Samira Badran, Mona Hatoum, Muhenad Yacobi, Yazan Khalili, Yazid Anani, Nabil Anani, Gerturde Sanquist, Susanne Bosch, Doreen Mende, Pola Sildvering, Flippa Cesar, Andy Conio, Judy Price, Anna Sherbany, Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti, Hans Haacke, Oraib Toukan, Tirdad Zolghdar, Rula Halawani, Samir Salmeh, Hosni Radwan, Nina Montmann, Paul Noble, Georgina Starr, Solmaz Shahbazi, Maj Hassager, Michael Rakowtiz, Ihab Jadallah, Casper Hall, Raof Haj Yahya, Raedeh Martin Leboda, Michael Baers, Jumana Aboud, Sarah Beddington, Anna Boggon, Tania Bugeria, Sophie Ernst, Eric Van hove, Jeannette Christensen, Koken Ergun, Martin Lebodia, Ahmed Habbash, Jean Fischer, Shaker Laibi and T.J. Demos.

Students in the program are from throughout Palestine, its cities, villages, and refugee camps, and is open to all students; the annual open call short lists students who present projects to the jury for final admittance to the academy. All students are supported through a scholarship, which includes studio space and support for materials as well as an international exchange opportunity — while they contribute a small studio fee. Due to the isolation of Palestinian, particularly as concerns access to exhibitions, resources, and travel, our aim has been to bring artists and their experiences to the students studying in the West Bank. This has been made possible through our cooperation with organizations such as with the Al Ma’mal Foundation, Jerusalem, the Al Hoash Gallery, Jerusalem, the ArtSchool Palestine, A. M. Qattan Foundation, Palestine, and Birzeit University Art and Ethnographic Museum, and the Franco-Goethe Cultural Center among others, which enables students to benefit from guest artists as well as gaining valuable experience through internships with artists assisting with research and exhibitions. The IAAP also organizes annual study trips to our partner institution Oslo National Academy of Arts (KHiO) and individual student exchanges with a range of institutions across Europe and Middle East, in which students are carefully matched with institutions in relation to their practice. At the same time, every semester IAAP hosts students from Europe on an exchange at the academy in which there is an opportunity for them to undertake their own research and participate in courses.

The program is specialized in the visual arts, which students study over the course of four years, and differs from the programs available at other higher education institutions in Palestine, as the program is specifically concerned with all aspects of the visual arts. The program is not only unique in its structure, facilities, resources and visiting lecturers but also in its approach to teaching and learning which focuses on practical and research-based approaches and individualized teaching: the academy has thirty-three students and this translates into considerable qualitative time with artists and lecturers in one-on-one tutorials and group seminars. As a result students have worked on a variety of themes relating to the construction of national identity, personal and public memory, transformations of the urban landscape, nostalgia, the body, the production of media images, as well as many other issues. Our students have gone on to pursue post- graduate study in Europe, as well as receiving opportunities for international residencies. Students have shown their work, for example, at the Istanbul Biennale 2011, the forthcoming Berlin Biennale, and one of our students has been selected for a prestigious internship at the Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany, as well as participating in video and performance festivals. In addition our students regularly participated in local exhibitions and workshops, and have received the prestigious A.M Qattan Young Artist Award for their work.

The International Academy of Art Palestine aims to be a pioneering institution in Palestine concerned with developing and advancing the practice and knowledge of the contemporary visual arts, through learning, capacity building, and resource networks via innovative programs and its institutional model. The International Academy of Art Palestine aims to be an important catalyst in the Palestinian community for advancing creativity and an understanding of the visual arts. The academy promotes the importance of art in stimulating debate and challenging the norms of cultural attitudes. The academy’s goal is to contribute and develop new ways of representing collective memory, history, and cultural identity through the visual arts with its education and community programs, and by creating a new representation of Palestine and Palestinians for local and international audiences. As a cultural space, the academy is committed to playing an active role in the cultural scene of Palestine by providing workshops, seminars, art exhibitions, and public lectures and by initiating art projects and creative collaborations with the local and international community. As part of its outreach work, the academy holds public lectures, exhibitions, and screenings. It is also an important place for art projects, initiated by artists such as Picasso in Palestine and Jerusalem Milestone. The IAAP also plays an active role in collaborating with local and international organizations in Palestine on projects related to interventions into public space, such as celebrations for 10,000 residents in the city of Jericho in collaboration with the local municipality and the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. Each of these initiatives are part of the central goal towards contributing to an advanced level of practice and understanding of contemporary visual art in Palestinian society within an innovative institutional model.