In the series Cashe (Insurance Policy) 2018-2019, Jumana Manna has produced anthropomorphic interpretations of khabyas. The khabya was a key feature of rural Levantine architecture, the traditional seed storage chamber was built into the interior of homes to preserve grains for sowing and annual consumption.
Armpit and Armpit Shell, 2018, are displayed in a sauna inspired construction. The armpits continue the Muscle Vases series which Manna began in 2014. These two monochrome resin pieces are enlarged axillae, from the Latin ala, meaning “wing”, the hollow spaces under the arms at the shoulder where vessels and nerves pass through. Armpit is a hollow piece whose muscles are pumped exaggeratedly, while Armpit Shell is a thin cast of the first layer of dermis. Manna is like a grim anatomist. She dissects body parts and muscles to release them from their conventional function and biases. The armpit is among the warmest areas of the body and has a high concentration of hair follicles and seat glands. It is often the source of unpleasant odours and embarrassing wetness, especially in periods of passage like puberty and menopause. Manna’s sculptures are both armpits and a representation of every muscle in our body. The art object pushes itself to the threshold between the scientific, the social, and the biological. By depriving the human form of a sense of structure, these dissected armpits wittily dislocate the power of our priorities, senses, and desires.
— Ana Maria Bresciani
Deep in the earth beneath the Arctic permafrost, seeds from all over the world are stored in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault to provide a reserve should disaster strike. Wild Relatives, 2018, starts from an event that has sparked media interest worldwide: in 2012 an international agricultural research centre was forced to relocate from Aleppo to Lebanon due to the Syrian Revolution turned war, and began a laborious process of planting their seed collection from the Svalbard back-ups.
Following the path of this transaction of seeds between the Arctic and Lebanon, a series of encounters unfold a matrix of human and non-human lives between these two distant points on Earth. The film captures the articulation between this large-scale international initiative and its local implementation in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, carried out primarily by young migrant women. The meditative pace patiently teases out tensions between state and individual, industrial and organic approaches to seed saving, climate change and biodiversity, witnessed through the journey of these seeds.
A magical substance flows into me, 2015, opens with a crackly voice recording of Dr. Robert Lachmann, an enigmatic Jewish-German ethnomusicologist who emigrated to 1930s Palestine. While attempting to establish an archive and department of Oriental Music at the Hebrew University, Lachmann created a radio program for the Palestine Broadcasting Service called “Oriental Music”, where he would invite members of local communities to perform their vernacular music.
Over the course of the film I follow in Lachmann’s footsteps and visit Kurdish, Moroccan and Yemenite Jews, Samaritans, members of urban and rural Palestinian communities, Bedouins and Coptic Christians, as they exist today within the geographic space of historical Palestine. Manna engages them in conversation around their music, while lingering over that music’s history as well as its current, sometimes endangered state. Intercutting these encounters with musicians, are a series of vignettes of interactions of the artist with her parents in the bounds of their family home. In a metaphorical excavation of an endlessly contested history, the film’s preoccupations include: the complexities embedded in language, as well as desire and the aural set against the notion of impossibility. Within the hackneyed one-dimensional ideas about Palestine/Israel, this impossibility becomes itself a trope that defines the Palestinian landscape.
— Negar Azimi
Co-commissioned by the Sharjah Art Foundation and Chisenhale Gallery, with Malmö Konsthall and the Biennale of Sydney.
The Goodness Regime, 2013, is an experimental documentary exploring the myths and images that have enabled an understanding of Norway as a nation of peace and benevolence. The binding element is a series of enactments by children that recount the myths, historical events and cultural personas that have propelled the image of Norway as a peace nation. These stagings are woven together with archival footage, political speeches and voice-overs from Hollywood films describing the quintessential Norway. In a satirical deconstruction of the Goodness Regime that permeates Norwegian society, Manna and Storihle explore the moral dilemmas embedded within the history of one of the wealthiest nations on earth.
Alfred Roch, member of the Palestinian National League, is a politician with a bohemian panache. In 1942, at the height of WWII, he throws what will turn out to be the last masquerade in Palestine. Inspired by an archival photograph, A Sketch of Manners (Alfred Roch’s Last Masquerade), 2013, recreates an unconventional bon vivant aspect of Palestinian urban life before 1948. Posing silently for a group photo, the unmasked and melancholic pierrots accidentally personify the premonition of an uncertain future.
Blessed Blessed Oblivion, 2010, weaves together a portrait of male thug culture in East Jerusalem, manifested in gyms, body shops and hair dressing parlours. Inspired by Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising (1963), the video uses visual collage and the musical soundtrack as ironic commentary. Anger’s subjects of leather-clad bikers serve as a counterpoint to the culture Manna attempts to portray, that of popular male “thug” culture in East Jerusalem. Simultaneously psychologising and allowing herself to be seduced by the characters, Manna finds herself in a double bind similar to the conflicted desire that animates her protagonist as he drifts from abject rants to declamations of heroic poetry or unashamed self-praise.
Where Nature Ends and Settlements Begin
By Jumana Manna, e-flux, January 2020
Wild Relatives: The Art of Jumana Manna
By Lori Dedeyan, Los Angeles Archivists Collective, September 2019
Interview by Hakim Bishara, BOMB, 25 January 2019
Jumana Manna: The Violence of Beautiful Things
By Media Farzin, Frieze, 18 August 2018
Seeds of Change
By Kaelen Wilson-Goldie, Artforum, 30 April 2018
Interview by Lara Atallah, Artforum, 18 September 2015
Focus Interview: Jumana Manna
Interview by Omar Kholeif, Frieze, number 164, July – August 2014
Jumana Manna (b. 1987) lives and works in Berlin, Germany. She was awarded the A.M. Qattan Foundation’s Young Palestinian Artist Award in 2012 and the Ars Viva Prize for Visual Arts in 2017.
Manna has presented solo exhibitions at various spaces internationally, including at Tensta Kon- sthall, Sweden (2020); Tabakalera, San Sebastian, Spain (2019); Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin (2018); Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Høvikodden, Norway (2018); Mercer Union, Toronto (2017); CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux, France (2017); Malmö Kunsthall, Sweden (2016); Chisenhale Gallery, London (2015); and SculptureCenter, New York (2014). She has participated in numerous group exhibitions and festivals, including Toronto Biennial of Art (2019); 11th Taipei Biennial (2018); Nordic Pavilion, 57th Venice Biennale (2017); Liverpool Bi- ennial (2016); Marrakech Biennale 6 (2016); 54th and 56th Vienna International Film Festivals (2016 and 2018); 66th and 68th Berlinale (2016 and 2018); and CPH:DOX, Copenhagen (2018), where Wild Relatives (2018) won the New:Visions award. Solo exhibitions of her work are forthcoming at Museum of Modern Art, Antwerp, and Berkley Art Museum, San Francisco, both in 2021.
Manna’s work is held in significant public and private collections internationally, including MoMA, New York; MCA Chicago; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Carre d’art, Nîmes, France; National Museum of Norway, Oslo; and Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE.