Art in War discussed art making and art organisation under conditions of war, invasion, and occupation, with the contributions of cultural worker Lara Khaldi, the Wet Hole Group (artists Nikita Kadan, Alina Kleytman, Bogdana Kosmina), and art historian Ming Tiampo. The panel looked at 1970s-1980s Palestinian art and contemporary politically engaged artistic practices in and from Ukraine. Speakers focused on artists as makers of institutions and carriers of histories and on how their bodies become both survival institutions and archival documentation of it in contexts of infrastructural destruction.
Khaldi explored two key moments of Palestinian art history as recounted by the artists themselves. In the late 1970s Palestine, Sliman Mansour and Nabil Anani were using the Palestinian flag’s colours to paint because raising that flag was banned by the occupying Israeli army. But these artworks were confiscated, nonetheless. According to their story, when Mansour and Anani went to the military post to claim the works back, the officer offered them coffee, engaged them in a discussion, and encouraged them to paint abstract, avant-garde art – i.e., politically unproblematic works—instead of national symbolism. The artists only wanted their works back. Years later, during the First Intifada in the late 1980s, to boycott Israeli-made canvases and paints, Mansour and Anani began experimenting with local materials, like mud and leather. Placing the ‘political’ in the means and forms of art rather than in its content uncannily rendered their work more abstract.