In September 2014, veterans of Israel's elite army intelligence unit
called “8200,” many of whom were still on active reserve duty, signed
a letter publicly addressing the state's political and military
leaders and declaring their refusal to continue taking exploitative
action against Palestinians in order to maintain military control of
the occupied territories. Though they were refusing to continue their
military service in order to instigate a policy change, the
signatories were still committed to upholding national security and
therefore adhered to censorship laws and did not reveal their
identity. As a consequence, all media interviews with them were
performed with their faces obscured.
Image Blockade documents an experiment the artists initiated in
collaboration with neuroscientists at the Weizmann Institute of
Science. The subjects of the experiment consisted of two groups: other
veterans of the 8200 intelligence unit and a random control group. The
participants had their brain activity scanned using MRI technology
while watching clips from media interviews with the dissidents. These
reports had been approved for broadcast by military censors, but since
the dissidents’ faces had been darkened, the footage was easily
manipulated by the artists, who inserted additional information into
it. The added material was taken from various unconfirmed rumours or
reports about state use of intelligence that most likely would not
have passed the military censor. The subjects of the experiment were
asked to identify which clips had been altered and what would or would
not have been censored. Each participant’s brain activity was measured
while viewing the interviews to reveal how such information is read
differently by people who have undergone the military’s training in
self-censorship. The distinction is visible when comparing the two
groups’ brain activities, especially around sensory regions of the
brain such as the visual and auditory cortices.
Made in collaboration with scientists Hagar Goldberg, Meytal Wilf and the Rafi Malach Research Group, The Department of Neurobiology, the Weizmann Institute of Science.
With thanks to Dr. Edna Furman-Haran, Nachum Stern, and Fanny Attar
from the Human Brain Imaging Laboratory at the Weizmann Institute of
Science and to Dr. Doron Friedman.
This work was made with support from the New Museum, New York, the
Ostrovsky Family Foundation, Artis, and the Israeli National Lottery
Maayan Amir and Ruti Sela are artists whose collaborative works have been shown internationally in exhibitions, including the Biennale of Sydney, the Istanbul Biennale, the Berlin Biennale, the New Museum Triennial, Centre Pompidou, Art in General (NY), Tate Modern, Jeu de Paume, Ludwig Museum, HKW, and Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. In 2009 they initiated together the ongoing art project Exterritory, for which both artists won a Young Artists Award from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO, 2011. They also edited the anthology Extraterritorialities in Occupied Worlds together, published by Punctum Books in 2016.
Ruti Sela studied art at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, where she graduated with distinction, and attended the MFA program at the Tel Aviv University Film Department. She is the head of the Video Department at the Midrasha Art School and teaches also at the MFA in Fine Art program Bezalel Academy of Art and Design and Haifa University. Throughout 2011 she was a guest resident at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam. A book about her works titled For the Record was published by Archive Books in 2014.
Maayan Amir holds a PhD from the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is the editor of Documentally (2008), an anthology of essays on Israeli documentary cinema. She has curated numerous exhibitions and published essays in books and catalogs. She was a researcher on the Forensic Architecture project. She is a lecturer at the MFA Program in Fine Arts at Haifa University. Throughout 2011 she was a guest resident at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam.