November 7 – December 21, 2013
OPENING RECEPTION: Thursday, November 7, 6-8PM
CRG Gallery is pleased to present Jumana Manna’s first solo exhibition in New York, comprised of a short film, archival photograph, and series of sculptures. Manna’s practice traverses film, sculpture and installation in order to examine questions of the body, nationalism, and the writing of history. While her film work uses elements of theatricality, performance, archives and a comparative geographic approach, her sculptures are abstractions and allegorical interventions on existing structures and their function.
While conducting research on early Palestinian modernism and the leisure culture of the upper class, Manna found a portrait depicting a group of masqueraded men and women dressed as pierrots, the foolish but endearing pantomime characters made popular by the Commedia dell’arte in the sixteenth century. This costume event is the subject of Manna’s A Sketch of Manners (Alfred Roch’s Last Masquerade) (2013), which re-enacts a peculiar and lesser known aspect of the Palestinian elite under the British Mandate. Roch, a member of the Palestinian National League and a wealthy landowner, threw these masquerade parties annually from the 1920s onward.
Co-scripted with cultural historian Norman M. Klein and set in 1942, the film contains a voice over that narrates the complex political climate of the period: Germany dominated Europe from France to the center of Russia while Palestine was seemingly quiet on the outskirts of the war. Manna constructs various moments throughout the party—Roch’s pre-event costume and makeup ritual, the conversations and flirtations throughout the evening, the group’s whispering and pursed smiles as they anxiously await to be photographed. The solemn anticipation with which they sit seems to foretell the events that would irrevocably change the future of Palestine and its people.
In addition to A Sketch of Manners and the archival photograph that accompanies it, the front gallery contains a series of sculptures made from seatbelts and metal rods. Sourced from car junkyards, the strips are sewn alongside one another, constructing a series of banners. Displaced from their original function as precautionary safety devices, they take on anthropomorphic poses. While these sculptures condense Manna’s thematic concerns into singular forms, the films are the unfolding of archival materials into time-based narrative. In these works, Manna continues to address issues of the body, history and the constructions of community.