20 May, 2010

This Summer: Jerusalem and Tel Aviv

Today I got an email informing me that my application for the Shellman Prize at Princeton's School of Architecture was successful. That means I get funding to work on another drawing project this summer! I was not expecting this because I won the same prize last year. Here's my project proposal:

Proposal for the Shellman Travel Fund

I plan to travel to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to experience and record the monuments and urban space in Israel, a country founded in 1948 – one year after the founding of my home country, Pakistan.

Three motivations undergird this drawing project:

1. Both Pakistan and Israel were founded in order to carve out geographic space for a religious group to practice its religion and culture without persecution. Pakistan’s history has been wrought with turbulence. By traveling to Israel I want to learn how a new country gives expression to its national identity in the built environment, while providing avenues for that identity to evolve.

2. Art, says Jeffrey Kipnis, has the ability to give a choate expression to emergent political stirrings that cannot find any other confirmation in reality. I believe that the architect’s role is to experience and internalize these stirrings, and then to create forms and networks that mediate future political ideas. I grew up as a Muslim and only learned about Israel as an abstract idea. At Princeton, I formed close friendships with many Israeli students who helped to give dimension and reality to that conception. I want to visit Israel simply to listen to and internalize the story of a people through drawing.

3. In the words of Anne Cheng, when we articulate the political and urban challenge of the Middle East in the language of “grievance”—for example, by talking about rights—we form ideological divisions and build physical boundaries. A better way to address the challenge is by expressing it in the language of “grief.” The latter has the ability to evoke empathy and affect the hearts and minds of people on both sides. By documenting my own experience in blog entries, sketches, and larger drawings, I aim to convey the lived experience of contemporary Israeli society.

PS: My Israel visa application has been declined. I will not be able to travel to Israel this summer but I will reapply for an Israeli visa next year. I am working on a new concept for the Shellman Prize and I plan to carry out that project later this year. Check out wqs-gsd for updates.


nb- said...

WOW. Traveling to Israel, experiencing it and recording it in a tangible form has been something of a personal ambition of mine, an eventual excursion I hope - perhaps because of the labels that exist being a Pakistani, a muslim. Not personally, but the ones I've still had to see growing up in this country.

Congratulations - good luck (with the Pakistani passport? - what's up with that) and hope you'll be keeping another travel blog!

jason said...

Awesome, just awesome. Congratulations! I wish you safe travels and can't wait to follow along.