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May 2013

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This picture was taken the 22. of Oct 2010 at 16.00. I am the small person on the left side with the grey hood and angry look, together with the Swedish dancer Ylva Henrikson, on the right side with the blue hood and surprise look.

We are standing on the rooftop of the butch- er’s house by the centre of the refugee camp of Jalazoun, close to Ramallah city, in the West Bank, Palestine. We are surrounded with peo- ple from the refugee camp.

It is the last day of the art project Vertical Gardening , which I did in 2010 together with a number of citizens in the refugee camp, with Palestinian artists and with Swedish artists Anders Paulin and Ylva Henrikson.

That day is planned as a celebration of the work done during 1 month together with the community of Jalazoun. We started in the morning with a seminar together with the par- ticipants of the project – artists, architect stu- dents and volunteers from the camp – where we had a discussion on the objectives of the project: To use the activity of working together as a tool to create discourse on collective use of public spaces. To reach this aim it has of course been very important to continuously find strategies for how to use the project for the sub- jectivity of the community we were working with, and also to avoid the automatic reflex of implementing our own values and identities in this foreign context.

When this picture is taken we are about to start the public celebration, which is a program of performances on 3 roof tops surrounding the central plaza of the camp, and it ́s done by 3 lo- cal dapke dance groups from Jalazoun – The Ti- gers, Shabab Harriye and the youngsters – the Palestinian circus School and a trio by Ylva, me and a violin player. The music is played by a lo- cal DJ. During rehearsals with the groups we agreed to follow my instructions:

– When I do this sign (arms ups) is for group 1 to start & stop, when I do this sign (head mov- ing in circle) is for group 2 to start & stop and when I do this sign (leg up) is for group 3 to start & stop. No body followed my signs during the performance. The DJ doesn’t look at me, nei- ther does the dancers. I look disappointed in the picture (I turn to look at my angry self in the projected picture on the wall).

It was a warm day, we have too much clothes because women can’t be on a rooftop showing their bodies, that’s why the XL hoodies. We are working hard to hear each other, as the sound was extremely loud. And I am irritated (I turn to look at my angry self in the projected picture on the wall).

– I had agreed with the Tiger group to do one number without the music; to add some sort of excentric twist to the traditional folk- loric dance. They didn't really like the idea at first, but after long discussions they agreed. In the show they didn’t follow the plan, and kept the music throughout the whole time.

– I wanted all groups to not use their tradi- tional costume but pedestrian clothes, they absolutely didn’t want that.

– We had agreed that everyone would keep all numbers to no more than 2 minutes length instead of the traditional music length of 8 – 12 minutes. In the show they continued. I tried to give the sign we agreed, but they didn't look in my direction. Called them with cell phones but they didn’t hear it. Maybe they forgot, I don't know.

My relation to dapke is this: I come from Venezuela, from a Lebanese family. Through my whole childhood there was dabke all over. I think dabke represent nationalistic stagna- tion, super rigid formations of steps, tradition- al music & costume, So I am here, trying to deal with 3 dapkle groups and with what I think its not art, while I suppose to celebrate.

Dapke looks like this: (I show some steps, then ask the audience to join and learn it in the dance circle).

After a while dancing dapke with loud mu- sic I stop it and say: Thank you, but lets us stop it now, don’t get too happy, because this is not art, and not only is it conserving traditional structures, but its uses for us westerns to pro- ject our own identity in the exotic image of the others and we don’t want to do that right?

The urgent question for me through out this whole celebration is: How am I going to video document this event? How I ‘m going to show the funders that this is not a wedding but the finalization of an art project?

It has been very difficult to explain to all art grants, that our work is not a NGO – project, but to make a choreography. How will we ex- plain that Vertical gardening it self is not just planting, it's a choreography – in – geography? A mobilization of people in time and the terri- torial space? That we are not social workers, we are working with social issues but through an art perspective? In this case the strategy of roof top planting, as this are the only spaces available in this camp.

Is it really a documentation problem?

The text is an excerpt of Sara’s solo performance called “How do I get the water into the tire?”

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