Henrik Placht

Magavnikim and the slide projector

by Henrik Placht‚

Oslo 09th of September 2009

This is one of many strange little stories from my 7 years of working to establish the IAAP.

I will use my site for publishing both short stories from working in Ramallah but also other relevant material i hope guests on the site will find interesting.

It was the summer of 2004 and I was on my way to Ramallah to hold the first workshop there in relation to the establishment of The International Academy of Art Palestine.

I was very excited because it was the first time that we were going to talk about art in an academic situation and work on the ground together with 20 talented Palestinian artists. Until this point everything had been focused lobbying, applying for funds, meetings and organisation building.

In relation to this I had brought a Kodak carousel slide projector.

It is quite big and heavy since it is made of steel.

I also had two carousels full of slides with highlights from the last 500 years in art history.

I was carrying the Kodak machine as hand luggage, and as I landed in Tel Aviv I was starting to think what my answers to the ”security” staff’s interrogations could be.

I was starting to get used to the “special treatment” since I already was a frequent flyer to Israel. Last time they caught me with support documents from Yasser Abbed Rabbo, which made them interrogate me for 6 hours.

I was standing in line like everybody else and finally it was my turn:

”Purpose of visit?” the suspicious lady in the passport control room asks.

”Art and higher art education:-)” I reply.

”Hmmm….. where?”..

.”Ehh…. Ramallah” I replied.

She pushes a button under the table and suddenly five Israelis with huge muscles and sunglasses appear and take my passport, cellphone, ticket and visa cards.

“Come with us please, mr Placht,” the biggest one of them tells me.

As always I feel extremely angry when they start the interrogation and open my bags and go through all my stuff and making a huge mess in my perfectly packed suitcase.

When all the stuff was a mess and couldn’t find anything they shuffled me into some sort of a police interrogation room and there where 2 officers there.

They took up a huge stable of documents and told me that this is my file in their “system”.

Then suddenly a man comes with the slide projector and puts it on the desk.

“What is this mr Placht?”

“Well this is a classic Kodak slide projector” I replied.

“What are you going to use it for?” the man asked.

“Well it is projecting slides so I´m going to project slides”

“Show us that it works..” the man said.

So I started to set it up and said I needed the slide carousel to insert it in order to use it properly.

The machine starts up.

“We have to turn off the lights”, I say, and they turn it off.

“Click” the machines says when the first slide goes into the projection chamber and the painting “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog” is beautifully projected in the size 2m x 3 meters on the wall.

“What’s this?” the police ask.

“ This is a painting by Caspar David Friedrich” I replied.

“Never heard of, who’s he?”

“ Well…. Caspar David Friedrich was born on September 5, 1774, in Greifswald, on the Baltic coast of Germany, for many academics his works represents a very important paradigm and the leading role of the romantic painting” I told them.

“What is that? I don’t understand this painting and where is he?”.

“This particular painting ‘Wanderer above the Sea of Fog’, dated 1818 illustrates the sublime, associated with dimensions of greatness and founded on awe and terror. This well-known and especially Romantic masterpiece was described by the writer John Lewis Gaddis as leaving a contradictory impression, “suggesting at once mastery over a landscape and the insignificance of the individual within it. We see no face, so it’s impossible to know whether the prospect facing the young man is exhilarating, or terrifying, or both… it is by the way located in the collection in Kunsthalle Hamburg.”

“Hmmm what’s next?” said the interrogation man.

“What do you mean?” I said.

“The next slide please!”

So I clicked the next slide on the wall and “Das Eismeer (The Sea of Ice aka Polar Sea)” and I started to talk about the painting and after 30 min with slides (I reached suprematism and Malevic) they said that it was ok. I also told them that in the 1800 century Norway didn’t have an art academy so if we wanted to learn we had to go to Germany. “Now I want to help the Palestinians to have their own art academy”

“Why are you doing this?” the officer asked.

“I believe that the Palestinians should and deserve to have a room or a place where they can define their cultural identity”.

“You can go mr Placht…and thank you for showing us some art”.

They let me go after 5 hours.

I went out of the old Ben Gurion airport and set course for Ramallah and 3 months later we opened a huge show in Oslo with the result from the workshop.

It later also travelled to NY and was shown in United Nations headquarter.

— Henrik Placht