11 May J Carrier, Alaa Abu Asad’s Wild Plants: An Interview
Alaa Abu Asad, The Dog Chased its Tail to Bite it Off, 2018-present (ongoing).
Having lived in Jerusalem and worked in the West Bank, I was familiar with Alaa Abu Asad’s book Wild Plants of Palestine (Jaffat El Aqlam, 2018). When the visual editor of Asymptote asked whether I’d like to highlight the work of an artist whose work traverses borders, especially political and linguistic ones, and who uses text and language(s) in the art sphere, engaging with actual or metaphorical translation, I recalled Abu Asad’s work: his early works on the interpretation of photographs and his focus on place, and specifically his works that speak to the act of translation that occurs when we place ourselves in various landscapes and spaces.
I spoke with Rotterdam-based Palestinian artist Alaa Abu Asad via Zoom in March of 2023.
Alaa Abu Asad is an artist, researcher, and photographer. Language and plants are central themes through which he develops alternative trajectories where values of (re)presentation, translation, viewing, reading, and understanding can intersect. His work takes the form of writing, film, and interactive installations, in which he visually represents his research and explores the boundaries of languages.
J Carrier, working with the photobook, uses photography as a form of language, leveraging the medium’s ambiguity to provoke questions about what and how we see, and how we might understand. The book, and the extended photographic series, rather than simplifying or essentializing, resists the camera’s indexical limits and carries an increased capacity to reflect our layered existence, and mirrors the iterative, cumulative, and recursive approach he uses to navigate the world and make pictures.
His first monograph, Elementary Calculus (MACK Books, 2012), photographed in Israel and Palestine, was selected as a notable book of 2012 by many critics and publications, including TIME magazine, included in The International Center of Photography’s Triennial exhibition, and collected in the library collections of MoMA, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, SFMoMA, and Tate Museum. J has published three books with Brooklyn-based TIS books: Untitled 1 (2014), Untitled 2 (2016) and most recently, The Folly (2021). Mi´raj, the second volume in his Israel/Palestine trilogy, will be published Summer 2023 (TIS Books).
He lives with his family in central Vermont and works as an assistant professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.
Access the entire interview here ASYMPTOTE