Haifa Museum of Art
Struggle, Protest – Knight, Mask
November 11, 2017-June 10, 2018

This exhibition examines the artists’ perspective on struggle and protest and the degree of their involvement, which can range from artistic homage to pronounced activism. The works depict battle scenes, rallies, or protests – some are well-known while others are none recognizable. The exhibition revolves around two central images: the mask and the knight. The mask is used for concealment and protection. It provides anonymity and can help the wearer lose his or her inhibitions and express personal freedom. Here, it can be found on the faces of protesters and police officers alike.

Press photographs were the inspiration for these large-scale paintings by Keren Anavy of traditional Middle-Eastern headdresses known as keffiyehs. The covered eyes of veiled faces hint at violent circumstances. They cannot see the spectator, nor the spectator them. Anavy infuses these charged images of keffiyehs with beauty, allure, danger, and violence.

Images of masked protesters are present throughout the exhibition. The mask represents freedom from representation by traditional institutions, as suggested by artist and theorist Hito Steyerl. A notable example in this context is the recurring appearance of the Guy Fawkes mask, first used by the hacker group Anonymous in 2008 in their public protests against Scientology. In the decade that passed, the mask has become a unifying visual symbol for modern resistance. The use of masks ties to the discourse on the ‘right to opacity’, a mechanism that facilitates otherness and represents the subjugated individual’s rights rather than limitations, as put forward by philosopher Édouard Glissant. It is no surprise, then, that protesters often wear masks, allowing them to exercise their rights and protest without fear of identification and, at the same time, enabling the protester community to form a common identity.

Revital Silverman Grun, Curature

Haifa Museum of Art. Haifa, Israel