Conversation Pieces: Scenes of Unfashionable Life was shown at the Goldsmiths MFA Degree Show 2011 in London and comprised many elements including painting, video, sculpture and 3-D objects as well as live actions performed by non-actors involving audience participation. It aimed to blur the lines between art and the everyday and to question conventional ways of thinking and how public opinion is formed by presenting individual narratives that depicted a complex and conflicting reality rather than a dichotomy.
The sweet smell of cardamom greeted the visitors entering the space as well as loud yelling and singing in Hebrew, extracts recorded at the big food markets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem mixed with cheerful folk songs typical of Israeli culture, which would suddenly turn into the aftermath of a missile attack in Haifa. Each visitor was offered a steaming glass of Turkish coffee by Israeli volunteers clad in blue and white t-shirts with the hand-printed slogan: "I come from the most hated place on earth" and on the back it said in brackets "(Second to Iran)" (COFFEE STAND).
This transition area, reminiscent of an abandoned airport terminal, led to a larger space, but to enter it one had to get past the Israeli security guard who was checking each handbag for bombs (Have you packed your bags?). Those entering the main space had a difficult time deciding whether they had stumbled upon a discotheque or a war zone. A large graffiti on the wall facing the entrance read "Zionist prick" with the word "prick" crossed out. Huge paintings were nailed to the walls depicting chaotic scenes of crowds of people in flight and debris were strewn all over the floor as if something had exploded. Small TV monitors poised on discarded car batteries and cemented wheelbarrows transmitted rockets falling on Haifa, soldiers dancing to the sound of Kehsa and children running for shelter, to the disco-beat of "Red Colour Trance", an early warning radar system against Qassam rockets (Groovy Little War Mix). In a culminating act that repeated itself every few minutes, the Goldsmiths Building was blown to pieces on screen; first in normal speed, then in slow motion (Goldsmiths Made Me a Fundamentalist).
Every now and then a woman clad in a brown body suit erupted into the room screaming hysterically, then dove into a brown cocoon and lay there with her legs spread open. Occasionally she would fall asleep inside the cocoon (Date Rape).
Once a day at an undisclosed time everything was silenced and the visitors were invited to stand round an x-marked circle and stare into an imaginary hole for a minute of silence. At the end of this action everything went back to normal and the chaos resumed (Peeping).
In the midst of all this a certified holistic therapist with a pink vagina-like massage table offered visitors a free five-minute massage on their left side only. Visitors could choose from a variety of treatments and once in a while they could enjoy a battlefield acupuncture demonstration (Rehabilitating the Left).
In a little alcove just behind the wall of the main space, reminiscent of a shelter and slightly secluded from all the noise, was a wall projection of the artist in her studio being interviewed about what it means to be a "Zionist" (with the obvious tongue-in-cheek connotation of "terrorist" reinforced by the title of the work- The Fundamentalist). The large gaze directed at the viewer and projected at seating level created intimacy and the noise emanating from the larger space meant that the visitor had to make considerable effort to hear the words, almost as if they were being whispered. This was perhaps the key to the entire work, which had hitherto employed much humour and sarcasm to tackle difficult issues. Here the dialogue was frank and the artist put herself in a vulnerable position, voicing conflicting emotions and many unanswered questions.