For September’s LADA Screens artists Ruti Sela and Maayan Amir will present Image Blockade, a film depicting a scientific experiment that the artists initiated in collaboration with neuroscientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. The experiment examined the brain activity of Israeli veterans from an elite army intelligence unit called “8200”, as they respond to a letter of refusal signed by peers in their unit whose identities were withheld when released in the media. As part of the experiment, they planted additional information in the original media interviews, to reveal how such information is read differently by people who have undergone the military’s training in self-censorship.
Image Blockade is part of the artists’ ongoing art project Exterritory. Conceived in 2009 Exterritory aims to encourage both the theoretical and practical exploration of ideas concerning extraterritoriality in an interdisciplinary context.
In September 2014, veterans of Israel's elite army intelligence unit called “8200,” many of whom were still on active reserve duty, signed a letter publicly addressing the state's political and military leaders and declaring their refusal to continue taking exploitative action against Palestinians in order to maintain military control of the occupied territories. Though they were refusing to continue their military service in order to instigate a policy change, the signatories were still committed to upholding national security and therefore adhered to censorship laws and did not reveal their identity. As a consequence, all media interviews with them were performed with their faces obscured.
Image Blockade documents an experiment the artists initiated in collaboration with neuroscientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science. The subjects of the experiment consisted of two groups: other veterans of the 8200 intelligence unit and a random control group. The participants had their brain activity scanned using MRI technology while watching clips from media interviews with the dissidents. These reports had been approved for broadcast by military censors, but since the dissidents’ faces had been darkened, the footage was easily manipulated by the artists, who inserted additional information into it. The added material was taken from various unconfirmed rumours or reports about state use of intelligence that most likely would not have passed the military censor. The subjects of the experiment were asked to identify which clips had been altered and what would or would not have been censored. Each participant’s brain activity was measured while viewing the interviews to reveal how such information is read differently by people who have undergone the military’s training in self-censorship. The distinction is visible when comparing the two groups’ brain activities, especially around sensory regions of the brain such as the visual and auditory cortices.
Made in collaboration with scientists Hagar Goldberg, Meytal Wilf and the Rafi Malach Research Group, The Department of Neurobiology, the Weizmann Institute of Science. With thanks to Dr. Edna Furman-Haran, Nachum Stern, and Fanny Attar from the Human Brain Imaging Laboratory at the Weizmann Institute of Science and to Dr. Doron Friedman.
This work was made with support from the New Museum, New York, the Ostrovsky Family Foundation, Artis, and the Israeli National Lottery Arts Council.
Maayan Amir and Ruti Sela are artists whose collaborative works have been shown internationally in exhibitions, including the Biennale of Sydney, the Istanbul Biennale, the Berlin Biennale, the New Museum Triennial, Centre Pompidou, Art in General (NY), Tate Modern, Jeu de Paume, Ludwig Museum, HKW, and Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. In 2009 they initiated together the ongoing art project Exterritory, for which both artists won a Young Artists Award from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO, 2011. They also edited the anthology Extraterritorialities in Occupied Worlds together, published by Punctum Books in 2016.
Ruti Sela studied art at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, where she graduated with distinction, and attended the MFA program at the Tel Aviv University Film Department. She is the head of the Video Department at the Midrasha Art School and teaches also at the MFA in Fine Art program Bezalel Academy of Art and Design and Haifa University. Throughout 2011 she was a guest resident at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam. A book about her works titled For the Record was published by Archive Books in 2014.
Maayan Amir holds a PhD from the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is the editor of Documentally (2008), an anthology of essays on Israeli documentary cinema. She has curated numerous exhibitions and published essays in books and catalogs. She was a researcher on the Forensic Architecture project. She is a lecturer at the MFA Program in Fine Arts at Haifa University. Throughout 2011 she was a guest resident at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam.
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