Activestills around Israel and Palestine
We believe that art should be available to the wider public and not experienced only by specific segments of society. We wish to expose as many people to our images and the topics that we believe to be of public interest. That is why we started using street exhibitions as an ongoing method for the display of our images. Activestills’ first collective action in 2005 was centred around a street exhibition. It was the beginning of the demonstrations against the Israeli Separation wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in, and we sought new ways to spread the images to an Israeli audience. Mainstream me-
dia showed almost no interest in the protests, and independent media was still a newcomer on the scene. Instead of knocking on closed doors we decided to exhibit on the street, and so we hung our first selection of photographs in dozens of locations across Israel. We then maintained the exhibitions—that were soon vandalized—for several days in a row. We decided upon a grid and a logo. The grid was made up of the photos printed on a simple A3 color paper. Beside them we hung a text, explaining the exhibition’s topic. The logo was our website’s address—Activestills.org—which indicated to the engaged viewer to where to find more information. The name, a combination of the words “active” and “stills”, carried our motivation and our belief that images can shift public opinion and discourse. By identifying the images’ source only as a group we declared internally that personal prestige is to be set aside.
Well before the social media and the smartphone era, Activestills were pioneers in using photographic public street exhibitions in Israel and Palestine as a way to bypass mainstream media and share visual and textual information. We found this practice to be an effective method, reaching different audiences in the most direct way and on various locations.
Unexpectedly, this practice still remains effective today. Although our images are now used regularly by mainstream and alternative media, we still see how reclaiming public space is even more important now than a decade ago.
After each exhibition, we come back to document the changes, comments and often times erasure of our photos. Over the years this documentation has become part of our growing archive, which exposes an interesting reciprocal relationship between the virtual “town square” and the public space. As the exhibition is re-photographed, the photos gain a “second life” after having been eliminated from the physical sphere. They become documents of their own reception and perception, highlighting that which is effaced from public memory, yet inevitably resurfaces.
In the following pages you will find a selection of Activestills street exhibitions produced between the years 2006 - 2014.