People I Met is a conceptual mixed-media piece documenting Miki Kratsman’s attempt to use Facebook to identify 9,000 portraits of Palestinians he took during his 30 years as a photojournalist for the Israeli newspapers Hadashot and Haaretz. The installation features 2,000 printed portraits hung individually in nine registers across three of the gallery’s walls, with 150 bronze plaques facing the portraits. Inscribed onto the plaques are a selection of Facebook comments revealing the identities and current whereabouts of the individuals depicted in the portraits. Some were killed by Israeli soldiers, some went missing years ago and have yet to return home and some were imprisoned for their participation in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Others are living normal lives, working at grocery stores or happily married to their childhood sweet-hearts.
The work of the Buenos Aires-born, Tel Aviv-based photojournalist and activist will be on display at the University of South Florida’s Contemporary Art Museum (USFCAM) until Dec. 8. The exhibition also features works from several of Kratsman’s other contemporaneous projects, including selections from his Bedouin Archive and his Displaced photography series, table-top collaged panoramas of Arab villages the Israeli government has slated for demolition and a 2017 video project entitled 70 Meters… White T-shirt which consists of footage of a year of shooting in the Palestinian village of Nabi Salih.
Kratsman’s work centers on documenting life in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories and, according to a press release published by the museum, attempts to “uncover personal stories while revealing the violent, often detached nature of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.”
The show is the first USFCAM exhibition organized by Christian Viveros-Fauné, the museum’s newly appointed curator-at-large. Viveros-Fauné will also begin teaching courses on contemporary art and art criticism at USG’s School of Art and Art History in the spring as the 2018-2019 Kennedy Family Visiting Scholar. Prior to joining the USF faculty, Viveros-Fauné organized the first iteration of People I Met in 2017 at the Quinta Normal Venue of the University of Chile’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
“Christian Figueras-Fauné is a very well-know critic, curator, writer and former gallerist based in Brooklyn, New York, and we are expecting him to bring some very exciting exhibitions to us,” Noel Smith, the deputy director and curator of Latin American and Caribbean art at USFCAM, said. “As the only purely contemporary art museum in the Tampa Bay area we are constantly looking to do the best that we possibly can and we feel a huge responsibility to bring the most interesting, vital and important artists of our time here to the community and we found this person [Christian-Fauné] that we felt would bring us the best.”
USFCAM is nearing its 30th anniversary, and as a university-run contemporary art museum its focus has often been on work that is highly political and that deals with contemporary issues and concerns.
“We have always had art with a kind of political content,” Smith said. “At the USF Contemporary Art Museum we look for artists who not only are very aesthetically skilled and have a tremendous aesthetic talent and expression, but who also talk about things that matter, but who also talk about things that matter. We have always had a political content to our exhibitions – it’s nothing new.”
In addition to the exhibition itself, USFCAM is hosting a number of related events including a university-wide symposium entitled Politics of the Portrait / Photography as Activism on Oct. 11, a classical music concert in the USFCAM galleries on Nov. 1 and a screening of the documentary film 5 Broken Cameras on Nov.16 as part of the museum’s “Film on the Lawn” series.
USFCAM is located at 3821 USF Holly Drive, Tampa. Admission is free. People I Met can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/kratsman.people.i.met.