Created in the summer of 2014, el-Atlal (the Ruins) is a cultural network that aims to support artistic exchanges between Palestine and the world. The project will first be implemented in Jericho.
Palestine benefits from a long history, a cosmopolitan and ever-renewed culture and a diverse geography where the desert, the sea, forests, urban centres and small agricultural villages coexist in an extremely small space. As such, it is highly conducive to literary and artistic production.
Only 0.05% of the Palestinian government budget is destined for culture today. el-Atlalaims to revalue the potential of Palestine as a breeding-ground for culture by inviting artists and writers from all over the world to work and exhibit here.
el-Atlal is an artists and writers’ residence in the oasis of Jericho: the residence will accommodate up to six persons, for a duration of three months. The residency is open to artists and writers, upon submission of a portfolio and statement of purpose.
The works created during the residency in Jericho will be exhibited in the residence. The space will also host talks, book readings and performances.
The residency is, as a matter of course, not aimed solely at Palestinians. On the contrary, as we want to give a new visibility to Palestine as a space conducive to new creation, it is open to artists and writers of the world.
Jericho, known as the city of the moon, is often said to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities of the world. Its historic heritage gives it a special kind of enchantment: the ruins of an Omayyad winter palace overlooking old mosques coexist with the pagan roots of the city and with an abandoned casino, previously destined mainly to the Israeli population. All of this gives Jericho a special place in local imagination.
The existence of Jericho, as that of any oasis, is something of a miracle. This is why it remains to this day a city of pleasures. Marc-Anthony offered the city, as he would have a jewel, to Cleopatra. Looming over the city, the troglodyte monastery of the Mount of Temptation still carries this essential part of the oasis: a city of sins, of love and joy, Jericho has been the target of immemorial hatred. But, like its flamboyant trees, which grow in the desert for no discernible reason, the city knows how to rise up back from every one of its downfalls.
Geographically, Jericho is an interface. It stands halfway between the cities of the north of the West Bank such as Ramallah or Nablus, and those of the south, such as Bethlehem and Hebron. Jericho is most notably the point of entry into Palestine through Jordan. As such – and for most Palestinians who are only allowed to leave the country through Amman – Jericho is an interface between Palestine and the world.
The golden triangle of culture in Palestine stretches from East Jerusalem to Ramallah and Bethlehem. By integrating Jericho not as a fringe of this triangle but as a centre, el-Atlalcreates a new cultural dynamic.
el-Atlalis both a network and a centre, offering a new kind of space, one that is both inspiring, engaging and challenging to artists and writers the world over.
The el-Atlalresidence hinges around the idea of the ruin. In pre-Islamic Arab poetry, the ruin was the locus where the lover stood and looked for the traces of his lost love. From this place of negation and loss, a new poetic voice was born. Jericho is a city that has called destruction upon itself. It was and still is despised, smothered and desired, a place of both wistfulness and hatred. History has made it alternatively into a fortress, an oriental Las Vegas, a slum, a garden of Eden, a petrified jewel.From an architectural standpoint, the el-Atlalresidence will be built upon these three axes: ruin, loss, rebirth. In collaboration with the architecture firm AAU based in Bethlehem and the young designers of Local Industries, the residency is being thought as a space that will re-inscribe the joy of creation within Jericho.
The residence will provide all necessary equipment to artists during their stay. They will be accompanied by local agents that will help them travel throughout the country and will have at their disposal most materials they have requested beforehand. Similarly, we will be working with a provider in Palestine in order for them to acquire any extra material they would need at an affordable cost. The residency will have several workspaces, including a dark room, computers and IT material, art supplies and different spaces where work can be done by oneself or in group.
Construction of the residency should begin in the fall of 2015. AAU Anastas intend to rethink stone vaults and adapt the construction technique using new design simulation and fabrication processes. We aim to have the opening and host the first session by the spring of 2016.
In the meantime, and to give a taste of Jericho, el-Atlal will be hosting an opening New Year’s party in Jericho on December 31st and another one in Paris in January.