February 21, 2022

Seeing and Belonging Through History: Teiger Mentor in the Arts Emily Jacir

Jacir brings a deep investment in creating alternative spaces of "knowledge production" to her teaching with M.F.A. students this spring.

By Patti Witten

Untitled (SOLIDARIDAD) 2013, performance, 10m x 2m hand-painted mural, five sound pieces, wall text. Courtesy of the artist. photo / Renato Ghiazza

This semester, prominent artist, filmmaker, and the Department of Art's Teiger Mentor in the Arts Emily Jacir will give a public lecture on her work and meet with M.F.A. students in their studios for their weekly graduate student seminar.

Jacir is widely recognized for her complex and compelling body of work that uses a diverse range of media and methodologies including unearthing silenced historical material, performative gestures, and in-depth research. Poetic as well as political and biographical, Jacir's work investigates translation, transformation, resistance, and movement. Her work has been widely exhibited, written about, and acclaimed.

"We are inspired to have Emily Jacir on campus every week to lead the graduate seminar, to make regular visits to the M.F.A. studios, and to present an artist talk on March 7 titled Not So Long As The Night," said art department chair Paul Ramírez Jonas. "These are exciting components of the program, but the close mentorship aspect of this important appointment is the priority."

Deeply invested for more than two decades in creating alternative spaces of knowledge production internationally, Jacir brings to Cornell a long history and strong commitment. She has been actively involved in creating educational platforms in Palestine since 2000. From 2011 to 2012, Jacir led the inaugural year of the Ashkal Alwan Home Workspace Program in Beirut and created the curriculum and programming there, and served on its curricular committee. In the summer of 2019, she formed Live Free or Die, a school at the Fire Station Artists' Studios in Dublin, Ireland. She regularly creates pedagogical platforms in conjunction with her exhibitions, such as her survey show Europa at IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art), Dublin (2016–17), where she organized To Be Determined (for Jean), a two-week workshop for her students from the International Academy of Art Palestine in Ramallah, alongside Irish participants from three universities. For her survey show at Darat al Funun, Jacir brought her students from Ramallah together with local participants in Amman, Jordan, for her workshop محليّ / local – mahalee /لوكل.

 As curator the Young Artist of the Year Award 2018, Jacir mentored participants and created a year-long study program which culminated in an exhibition at the A.M. Qattan Foundation in Ramallah that she titled We Shall Be Monsters. She is the Founding Director of Dar Yusuf Nasri Jacir for Art and Research in Bethlehem, Palestine, where she fosters a pedagogical artist-led approach to this experimental learning hub for artistic, educational, cultural, and agricultural exchanges and research.

Her involvement in the founding these and other alternative educational models has shaped her pedagogical approach.

"I have always had a very bespoke methodology for teaching that is based primarily on the students themselves and where we are," Jacir says. "I consider my teaching practice more of a collaboration with the participants/students through collective discussions, exchanges, and workshops we create together. I see my role rather as a facilitator — fostering situations and platforms in which each student plays an active role by sharing their own body of knowledge and research. I try to create spaces where people can ask the questions they need to ask and in which learning is a shared endeavor. Ultimately, I am forever a student, which is why coming to Cornell is so exciting."


AP 3852 (2014), 28' x 50' mural from ex libris, seen from the Highline, NYC. Commissioned and produced by dOCUMENTA (13) with the support of Alexander and Bonin, New York and Alberto Peola Arte Contemporanea, Torino, ex libris was first shown in 2014 at Alexander and Bonin Gallery. photo / Sherman Clarke

Jacir's approach to practice involves a range of strategies including film, photography, sculpture, interventions, archiving, performance, video, writing, and sound. A billboard from her ex libris series has been displayed on the New York City High Line since 2014. The piece, which consists of an installation, book project, and billboards was made between 2010–12 for dOCUMENTA (13). It commemorates the approximately 30,000 books that were stolen by Israel in 1948 from Palestinian homes and institutions. Six thousand of these books are held at the Jewish National Library of Israel, categorized as "A.P." (Abandoned Property).

In Italy, Jacir has three permanent installations: ex libris in Palermo, Sicily; Pietrapertosa in Pietrapertosa, Basilicata; and Via Crucis at the Chiesa di San Raffaele in Milano. Recent solo exhibitions include the Alberto Peola (2021); IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art), Dublin (2016–17); Whitechapel Gallery, London (2015); Darat al Funun, Amman (2014–15); Beirut Art Center (2010); and the Guggenheim Museum, New York City (2009), among others. Her work has been shown in major international group exhibitions and collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York City; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin; dOCUMENTA (13) (2012); the Venice Biennale of Art (2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013), and more.

Left: ex libris (2010-2012), installation, public project, and book. photo / Roman März. Right: Return (2003/2018), 72" x 72". image / courtesy Alexander and Bonin 

Monographs and exhibition catalogs on her work include belongings (O.K Books, 2003) covering a selection of Jacir's work from 1998 through 2003; Emily Jacir (Verlag Fur Moderne Kunst Nurnberg, 2008) in conjunction with her solo exhibition at the Kuntsmuseum in St. Gallen in 2007; A Star is as Far as the Eye Can See and as Near as My Eye is to Me (IdeaBooks, Amsterdam), from the 2014–15 survey in at Darat al Funun; and Where We Come From, an exhibition at Dartmouth College in 2019.

With a focus on her work in Europe, especially Italy, the fully illustrated Emily Jacir: Europa (Prestel, 2015), which features almost two decades of sculpture, film, drawings, large-scale installations and photography was exhibited in a survey show at Whitechapel Gallery in London and IMMA with new site-specific works created for Dublin. Recently exhibited at the 2020 Berlinale International Film Festival, Jacir's documentary film letter to a friend brings together interlaced images, textures, movements, traces, and sounds from more than a century, recounting the history of a home and street in Bethlehem. Jacir has also served on various film juries, including the German Competition 35th International Kurzfilm Hamburg (2018); Visions du Reel Festival international du Cinéma Nyon (2014); Berlinale Shorts International Jury (2012); the Cinema XXI Jury Rome Film Festival (2012). She founded and curated the first International Video Festival in Ramallah in 2002.

Still from Jacir's letter to a friend (2019), film, 43".

Jacir is the recipient of a Golden Lion at the 2007 Venice Biennale of Art for her work Material for a film. Other honors include a Prince Claus Award from the Prince Claus Fund in The Hague (2007); the Hugo Boss Prize at the Guggenheim Museum (2008); the Alpert Award (2011) from the Herb Alpert Foundation; the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Rome Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Rome (2015), and the 2021 Art Matters Artist2Artist Fellowship.

The Teiger mentorship is a semester-long program in the Department of Art focused on expanding the fundamentals of creative practice. Jacir is the 18th Teiger Mentor. In addition to teaching, she will give a public talk on March 7, Not So Long As The Night.


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