Visual Politics in a Conflict Zone
Vision is always a question of the power to see—and perhaps of the violence implicit
in our visualizing practices. With whose blood were my eyes crafted?
—Donna Haraway, “Situated Knowledge: The Science Question in Feminism and the
Privilege of Partial Knowledge”
In 2008, daar (Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency), a collective
based in Beit Sahour, Palestine, launched one of its simplest yet most
spectacular projects of decolonizing architecture.1 The project involved the
transformation of a military water tower located at the summit of the de-
serted Israeli army base Oush Grab into an open- air cinema screen, thus
“taking a vision of control and turning it into a vision of another nature”
(daar, “Vision”).2 Like other projects launched by daar, the improvised
open- air cinema highlights the fact that Israel’s spatial control within the
Occupied Territories produces gray zones and sites of ambiguity (whether
in the form of leftover ruins, demolished houses, or extraterritorial spaces
left out of clear legal jurisdictions) that carry within them the potential to
reveal and expose the workings of power. The old water tank transformed
into an open- air cinema is a concrete example of how the militarized and
colonial power of the Israeli state, which itself relies heavily on vision and
surveillance as its mode of domination, can become visible (if provision-
ally), further challenged, and perhaps undermined (see figure i.1).
This simple act of projection not only changed the original use of the
water tower by turning it into a flat screen, but it also resulted in a specta-
tor image that literally subverted the direction of the gaze and replaced the
military gaze with another kind of gaze. Staging the projector so that the
screen was located at the summit—the place has served as an Israeli army
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