On Visit, Spanish Artist to Recite Names of Those Killed in 2014 Gaza War

The provocative performance artist, Santiago Sierra, will present a work based in part on reading the names of all those killed in the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas

Maya Asheri
Maya Asheri
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The art of Santiago Sierra, at the Centro Colombo Americano, Bogota, Columbia, in November 2011.
The art of Santiago Sierra, at the Centro Colombo Americano, Bogota, Columbia, in November 2011.Credit: Santiago Sierra / Centro Colomb
Maya Asheri
Maya Asheri

Santiago Sierra, the Spanish performance artist whose works are considered provocative, will visit Israel in September, for an exhibition called “Crimes” at the 1:1 Center for Art and Politics in Tel Aviv.

Sierra, 52, is known for his controversial performance art, which deals primarily with international political and social issues. In Israel he will present a new work of performance art, based on a 2004 work,“120 hours of continuous reading of a telephone book,” and a video documentation of “2205 State Crimes,” in which he enumerated the names of all those killed in Israel’s war with Gaza in 2014.

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Sierra, who lives in Madrid, presents provocative performance art all over the world. Although this is the first time he himself is attending an exhibition in Israel, his performance videos have been shown here. For example, in 2015 his exhibit “Veteran of the war of Israel facing the wall” was shown in Jerusalem. In it he stood former soldiers from various armies with their faces turned to the corners of the rooms and their backs to the audience.

Last year the Tel Aviv Center for Contemporary Art participated in an international performance art work created by Sierra, in which Arabic speakers read the names of all those killed in the civil war in Syria, for eight consecutive days and in four different cities worldwide (first in Tel Aviv, then in Vienna, London and Buenos Aires). 

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“2205 State Crimes,” to be screened at the exhibition, which is also based on a continuous reading of names, was first performed by two Arabic speakers in 2016, in Madrid. “120 hours of continuous reading of a telephone book” is similar in nature. In its original version from 2004 it consisted of reading the names and numbers of all the Arab residents of Israel, as they appeared in a phone book designated for the Arab population in Israel. Then too the performance, which took place in Madrid, involved native speakers of Arabic who read the names and numbers in their own language, without a translation into Spanish.

“Crimes” will be curated by Omer Krieger, who was recently in the spotlight, after he chose to display video art from the Arab world, without the permission or knowledge of the artists,  for the debut exhibition of 1:1 Center for Art and Politics. Sierra’s new exhibit, slated to open in Tel Aviv in September, will be on display for two months.