Professor Bashir Makhoul, the first Palestinian academic to hold a UK Vice-Chancellorship, will return to the middle east for a major solo exhibition of his work this month.
‘The Punishment of Luxury,’ an exhibition exploring excess and violence, opens in Umm el-Fahem, Israel’s largest Arab majority city on 24 November 2018. It will feature a striking new installation comprising 10,000 model houses, all filled with the herb za’atar.
“The installation is fully immersive and visitors will immediately be struck by the aroma of za’atar,” says Professor Makhoul. “The herb has a strong cultural relevance, and its presence is often a signifier for Palestinian households. But it also alludes to the massacre of Tel al Za’atar, which saw the destruction of a Palestinian refugee camp and the death of 2,000 of its inhabitants.
“In the exhibition’s centrepiece, za’atar will spill from the doors and windows of the model houses, demonstrating how our identities are unable to be confined. It is designed to provoke reflection on how our political, cultural and religious identities leak from the constraints we try to place on them.”
One of ten children raised by a widowed mother in the Palestinian village of Makhoul, Professor Makhoul went on to study for his degree, MA and PhD in the UK, where he has based himself for the duration of his academic career. He was made Vice-Chancellor of the University for the Creative Arts in June 2017.
Alongside leadership roles in higher education, he has continued to practice as a fine artist, exhibiting at a range of high-profile venues and events including the Hayward Gallery, Tate Liverpool, 2013 Venice Biennale and the Aichi Biennale in Japan.
Although he has exhibited widely across the middle east, ‘The Punishment of Luxury’ is Professor Makhoul’s first solo exhibition in Israel and it marks something of a homecoming. He says: “Territory and conflict have been preoccupations of mine throughout my artistic career, and my Palestinian heritage has proven to be a central focus of my work. It therefore feels very moving to be exhibiting in the region which has been a continual source of inspiration.”
The model houses for the exhibition were produced in China, where Professor Makhoul maintains a studio, allowing him to replicate large-scale industrial manufacturing processes.
Alongside the new installation, ‘The Punishment of Luxury’ will include a series of existing paintings, as well as works Professor Makhoul has produced with his son, Alex Makhoul. It will run at the Umm el-Fahem Art Gallery from 24 November.