Monday, 18 January 2010

14 February 2010, Half Way crisis, Vietnamese restaurant

Image from Google

Cay Tre
Vietnamese Restaurant
301 Old Street

and drinks at

Morrocan Bar and resturant
320 OLD street



Half time, and a crisis erupts
This meal was a crisis point, not only are we sick of falafel, we are also sick of meeting people on a daily basis. It is tasking, since we have no time to reflect. We spent Sunday with 3 page long emails between us. There were harsh words, projections, questioning and even a level of despair. It was Tim’s 30th birthday, our project manager, but we did not go to have a falafel meal with him and his friends, instead we had to meet on our own and talk. We ended up in a Vietnamese place, it was amazing to realise that even this small act of the dismantling of the structure helps us to have an over view. Like in our graphic novel, for a second we stepped out of the frame, as it were, and could have an over-view. There were no cameras; video, or stills, this helped the conversation’s flow too. For about four hours we discussed the residency. A number of issues came up for us during the past two weeks and we were unsure how to reflect them in the next couple of weeks. This was half time and it was not looking good, and we were feeling it might not even be worth it to continue.

Entering Pita, Golders Green, and being welcomed by a song’s lyrics saying ‘Jerusalem is Ours’, was just the starter for an uncomfortable meal. The over-bearing sense of Zionist Israel in Pita, forced us to decide not to go to Falafel King, another Israeli falafel place, but instead ‘perform’ a walk out, and go to Maramia CafĂ©, a Palestinian restaurant near by. We also were unsure as to how de-politicised the residency is becoming, since the meals are so polite, and the medium of sharing food, does not lend itself to heated arguments (not in England anyway). We were worried that our message is not coming across and that it appears like a residency where everyone eats falafel together and this is a signifier of peace and sharing. We were worried that the randomness of visitors means that some of the visitors to the meals, have no real interest in the topics raised by the residency that are specific to Palestine and hence we are just doing basic awareness raising activities. We felt that although a number of people expressed that they felt ‘converted’ after our meal, we had to ask - could we reach a much wider audience using other means? In relation to the urgency of the problem at hand, is this too pathetic an attempt? We felt that although we set the residency out based on FOOD, a film by Gordon Matta-Clark, where by Falafel Road also acts as a profile of our close networks, we might have benefited more from having only people we don’t know, or only invited people who have very specific interests in the area. This way maybe our blog would have been offering a more in depth analysis. We also felt that we keep dealing with the same representations of Palestinians through the residency, as victims, poor, and underprivileged and that this is very much the general western perspective anyway. We were not sure how we can change this in the residency. The other issue was the sheer undertaking that we have never accounted for, not only the daily meals, but also the blog and the planning of the bigger meals, it is relentless. All this means that we can never actually have a minute to reflect on the painful, delicate, and emotional processes that we are going through. Stuff comes up in the meals that make our relationship to each other as an Israeli and a Palestinian go out of our control, it is as if, for once, we are really a representative of our respective nationalities, or ethnic origins and it is hard to swallow (literally). We feel guilty on each other's behalf; we feel embarrassed on each other's behalf. I feel bad about Israel’s crimes, Larissa feels bad that I feel bad; all of this is not conducive to what we are trying to do, to our political aims. What we found the hardest, was that during the meals at Abu Ali, it was just the two of us and something started to happen, a deeper layer of a conversation opened up, but we were never able to return to it since the meals after that were all with visitors. We also found that various topics are coming up, but we are not able to carry them through, but only to point them out, since each meal generates another dynamic. We wanted to cancel the residency, or to stop the meals and only focus on reflections and on the blog, but realised that to replace one strategy with another one needs time too, and we don’t have any, since the meals are daily and the affect of the residency is durational. So we decided to stick with the meals and the formats, to invite a few specific people, like a human rights lawyer and a writer, and to keep the meals short and concise! This will give us more energy and time for the blog. In terms of the disappearing budget, we decided to pay only for the falafels from now on. Since writing this both invited people unfortunately could not make it on a short notice, we are waiting to hear from others.

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