Edited by Khaldun Bshara.
Contributors: Dana Abbas, Benji Boyadgian, Mohammed Aboalrob, Aya Al-Tahan,
Raghad Saqf Al-Heit, Wasan Qaraman, Areej Al-Ashhab, Serin ‘Alawi, Abdo Julani.
Mapping, art, and heritage are the three major disciplines across which this research keeps moving. It is research in which cross-disciplinary methodologies were put into practice hand-in-hand with local knowledge and know-how. Framing such research is challenging as the efforts, experiences, and knowledge of the many actors who contributed to the project become the actual act of mapping. While “The Absent Map” project claimed to create counter maps of Jerusalem and rural Jerusalem, maps were barely drawn during the research, and the few maps actually produced were only tools to share certain aspects of the research with the public. All other mapping experiments were translated into anything but a map: walks, material subtraction, and collective conversations to name a few. Five young emerging creatives joined the research: three architects and two artists, all from Palestine, some who have never and can never visit Jerusalem, some who are Jerusalemites themselves. The very first act of “mapping”took place when the five researchers were brought together with their “imagined;'”lived;’ and even “nonexistent” experiences of the spaces to be explored.
“The Absent Map” aimed to build on several local onground efforts that brought alternative representations of the Palestinian landscape and geography, and which were deliberately constituted from within. The projects were developed in conversation with inspiring intellectuals, historians, artists, and curators who helped set the methodological and aesthetic ground of the researchers’ work. The overall outcome was envisioned as a platform that transforms Palestinian initiatives on bottom-up mapping and counter-mapping to perhaps a “new map” of a lived Palestinian geography; a map where Palestinians with their local micro-cultures are not represented but are present.
Through this platform, the past and present networks of everyday flows of products, labor, seeds, goods, bodies and stories, are documented. In doing so, “The Absent Map” aspires to change the perception of mapping from the act of creating solid opaque borders to the act of revealing the porous and fluid nature of geography. During one year of explorations, colonial projections on rural Jerusalem were revisited, local oral narratives were documented and mapped, and absent geographies and histories were explored.