interviewed by Predrag Pajdic, February 2007

What is the meaning of the title of your latest work 'Land Confiscation Order 06/24/T'?

The title relates to the number of the order that my family received from the Israeli government informing us that our land is going to be confiscated. We were informed by our town's municipality about this piece of paper with the order. Somebody found it by accident, pinned under a stone on our land. Apparently, that is the way Israel informs Palestinians when their land is being confiscated.

Is there anything you and your family could do about it?

We had seven days to appeal the decision. Very few people ever got anything out of it or got any compensation back, although we are entitled to some sort of compensation by Israeli law. However, the reality on the ground is very different and in most cases, people just simply lose their lands. This is contrary to popular belief that Israel buys land from Palestinians and it goes all the way back to 1948 and earlier before the formation of the state of Israel. The methods that have been used, and that are still used by Israel, are to terrorize and strangulate the Palestinians. Basically to make their lives so impossible that they have to leave the country in voluntary exile.

The political reality in Palestine is so unreal and unbelievable that according to one of the characters in my latest piece, the only way to save the land would be to convert to Judaism, since Palestinians who are mostly Muslim and Christian don't have the same rights.

Is there a future for Palestine? Can you see the future?

That is a hard question and I am sure Palestinians would like to know the answer. Ideally one could hope for the world to finally realize what is really happening to the Palestinians and eventually put pressure on their governments to really act and condemn the actions taken by Israel of daily abuse and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Information on what is happening exists and can be found by those who make the effort or go out of the way to look for it. Unfortunately, not many people are interested in world problems as such. We live in an escapist society.

So how do you and your work fit in with all this? Do you think art can be used in a way to send a message out there?

Yes absolutely. I think art can complete a picture that is rarely ever seen in mainstream media. Artists have always had the onus of reflecting society. With the Middle East conflict, I feel that the Western audience, even when knowing certain truths about the conflict, lack empathy towards the region. And that is largely due, I think, to the fact that Arabs are hardly ever presented in the media as anything more than a problematic people and at the very best maybe exotic. We are still living in a world were the residue of European colonialism is felt everywhere. We are afraid of the Arab, because the Arab represents the other, the people we hardly know anything about. We also don't know anything about them because the entire Arab world was suppressed by centuries of colonialism. As colonial subjects their perspective was and still is unimportant and redundant to the western world.

So, in my work, I try to insist on my non-exotic Palestinian voice. Rather than exaggerate the ethnicity of my background to accentuate differences, I try to present a dialogue that has already been taking place for decades. Palestinians have been exposed to so many different colonial powers that Palestinian society is saturated by the imprints that these cultures left behind.

To underline this dialogue it is important to change the semiotics often used when addressing an 'ethnic' piece of work. I want to have the right to analyse rather than be analysed. In order to do so, I think we have to challenge certain clichés in the language and making of art.

Currently you live and work in Copenhagen. How is your work received there?

Living in Copenhagen is a very enlightening experience for me. It is as if Denmark is a microcosm of the phobia and suspicion the Western world is currently experiencing towards the Middle East. The homogenous society and the lack of historical interaction with the Middle East region as well as the rest of the world could serve as an epitome for a reductive and condensed Western perspective of the other. So artists with different backgrounds in Denmark are, I can safely say, for the most part marginalized. Those voices basically do not fit in the main framework of art making in Denmark, and are therefore irrelevant.

I am fortunate enough to have my voice heard in Denmark although it took years of effort to achieve that. Maybe it is the fact that my work has a lot of pop references and American film elements that Danish society could relate to. Since I come from various backgrounds, breaking cultural codes is one of the elements that interest me a lot and maybe that transpires in my work and makes it more easily interpreted in Denmark.

What is your next project about?

I am working on various projects at the moment. Incidentally one of them is about cultur clash, commenting on the increasingly problematic integration policies of the current right wing Danish government. The focus of the project is a painting by the Danish Golden Age artist, Kroyer, one of the best-known artists of that era. The painting is entitled 'Hip Hip Hurray!' and depicts the artist along with his seven other male Danish artists toasting, standing up while their wives are sitting down taking care of the kids. This painting is probably the most well known painting in Denmark. It's a national pride.

My project will reenact the whole scene with a flip of gender and ethnic roles. The photograph will be entitled 'Hip Hip Today' for obvious reasons. The artists selected for the photograph are all well known contemporary artists. They all have non-Danish ethnic backgrounds. The photograph will be shown along side the original painting at the Skagen Museum itself along with video documentation comprising of interviews with the artists around the theme of integration policies in Denmark.