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This web site presents
the work of Esther Parada accompanied by texts taken from her writings.


To Make the Desert Bloom,
a work-in-process in 2005

This project is an effort to evoke a deeper understanding of the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict through exploring the images and history of olive tree plantings in Israel/Palestine. It will include a detailed examination of the nature of olive trees; and a critical look at the symbolism and significance of these trees within American, Israeli, and Palestinian cultures. I wish to examine the contradictions of a community which at one time devoted its financial and spiritual resources to rooting, to planting trees, and which now has been so heavily engaged with uprooting, with the devastation of olive groves, — admittedly in the name of survival, yet painfully at odds with an earlier mission.

This proposal is definitely in the "germ of an idea" stage in terms of its physical or electronic incarnation. However, I will sketch a tentative format, followed by a review of the trajectory of my past work (in terms of evolving visual and interactive strategies) which will support the logic of this new project.

I would create two site-specific olive grove installations — in the form of a 3-D grid of photographic images of olive trees — to be exhibited simultaneously in two distinct venues. These venues might both be in the same city — for example, at the Spertus Museum of Judaica in Chicago and at The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs gallery for special projects on State St., Chicago; or at Palestinian and Jewish community centers in Chicago; or they might be in two different countries — on opposite sides of the Green line.

The photographic images would be rendered in a form that was physically detailed, sensuous, seductive, emphasizing the individuality of each tree, or each part (fruit, leaf, branch, trunk, root, etc.)...However, the beauty and apparent neutrality of the trees would be subverted or complicated by a narrative (in the form of a viewer-activated soundtrack, wall text, or embedded image or text) indicating the historical/ cultural significance of the plantings. That significance would be distinct for each of the two venues, or perhaps even distinct for each tree within the grove.

Over the course of the exhibition period, these distinct narratives would be collected and exchanged through various means: cultural programs with live participants, and/or electronic transfer of text/voices through the internet or CD-ROMs. The goal would be to attract a particular audience, give voice to its perspectives, then complicate or layer the narratives by exchange between the separate installations....

Other physical elements of the installation might include wall displays: the iconic presence of the blue tin boxes distributed by the JNF (Jewish National Fund); or documents such as the “Olive Tree for Palestine Certificate of Appreciation” (see supplements). Such physical objects would be part of a strategy encouraging viewers to share their memories of community connections to Israel/Palestine through trees or tree surrogates.

—From the project narrative for a New Media Fellowship.

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