Here is the transcript of the 4. episode of my non-space podcast. In this episode, I tell how the experience in Palestine in talks with former political detainees brought me to deepen the language and communication research.

Imprisoned Codes is the title of a project with which I started creating and using codes as alternative signs in my work. And this project was a turning point and is connected to a personal experience.

During my stays in Israel and the West Bank, I became fully aware of the existential need to communicate, write and read. I’ve been for longer periods in these beautiful and so deeply wounded territories, especially in the West Bank for projects like the Decolonizing Architecture residency run by Sandi Hilal, Alessandro Petti, and Eyal Weizman. And later for building up an own project, which was Baith al Karama in Nablus.

rachela abbate particular-of-installation 4. Imprisoned Codes
Imprisoned Codes, particular, 2011, installation, ink on rolling paper, by Rachela Abbate
Palestinian political detainees

Very often I had the opportunity to meet Palestinians who had been political detainees in Israeli prisons. In talks and interviews was referred to the communication and educational situations in the prisons, which became a leitmotif in the interviews. Never before I have perceived the existential dimensions of communication and learning praxis. Also, I became aware, that there is something more going beyond material or psychological survival.

I would like to give you the basic information of the history of the Palestinian political detainees: Palestinian detainees struggled very hard to get their right to write and read, which was in some prisons conquered through long-lasting hunger strikes. In some prisons, the detainees organized education in reading and discussion groups. Libraries were set up and growing by the time. Some of the detainees became serious researchers obtaining successfully a Ph.D. position during their detainment. Despite the fact that the communication between detainment sections was/is a problem as it was/is forbidden by Israelis prison rules, it was tried to pass information and communicational notes in a written form with ciphered texts.  The cryptograms had always simple codification keys but were changed very frequently as the communications were often snatched by the guardians. Maybe those simple text architectures aren’t allowing complexities, even so enough to stay informed.

Beyond communication

These experiences taught me, that beneath communication and information exists something else that wants to communicate and that puts us in a form, in a mind shape. This ‘else’ is the expression of the individual, having its own exigency as it belongs to a whole and is continuously connecting and re-organizing. This individual expression signifies autonomy and authenticity and is linked to creativity.

In my art project Imprisoned Codes, I tried to use the idea of alternative texts for communication and information discovering a whole world which is veiled by our belief in the alphabetic language or in the completeness of Western words in describing and communicating.

There are so many texts, written forms of expressions, leading to complete divers thinking. The best example is the text, the signs, which are used in mathematics or in music.

We are using text as architecture as a designed space which is often very restricted and hierarchical, strongly connected to education or to knowledge communication.

That these communication structures are becoming more fluctuant and anarchic is caused by a change in culture, being more aware of alternatives and of course by the digital communication technologies.

rachela abbate code_2 4. Imprisoned Codes
Imprisoned Codes, 2011, ink on transcript paper, 21 x 30 by Rachela Abbate

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