Jumana Manna’s installation Sketch and Bread is a sculptural homage to cast-offs, the excesses of urbanity, and forms of decay.
In Old Bread, the fragility and fragmented plurality of the ‘breads’ in display are suggestive of ceramic shards found in archaeological excavations. Taking as a starting point the process of decay as a part of life, Old Bread speaks of Manna’s interest in sites of decomposition, that fall outside conventional historical narratives of preservation. Suspended and fossilized at various states of disintegration, the ceramics on display represent objects lingering between the sacred and the abject. Old Bread, points towards a daily sight found in cities and towns across the Mediterranean: along ledges or beside trash bins, uneaten bread is often laid out as an offering to be taken, consumed, or allowed to grow stale and rot. Based on the belief that bread is a symbol of life and should, therefore, not be wasted, leftover breads are “offered” to unknown receivers. Manna studies these inter-connected gestures of guilt and generosity, that define this tradition which emerges alongside the wastes and excesses of urban life, and constitutes a form of everyday recycling.
Sketch equally speaks of urban detritus, but this time, of the imperfect, anarchic concrete blobs―residues of construction sites in urban landscapes. Initially photographs of the points where concrete spills meet parasitic urban plants, that barely―yet bravely―survive in between the cracks and fissures of concrete pavements, Sketch is a study between two-dimensional and three-dimensional information. Concrete slabs, imbued with organic leftovers, standing concrete structures with photographic print-outs gently folded over, an image of an image, of matter and made from matter, in tandem, communicating with each other, leaning and supporting. Sketch represents the leftovers of urbanity where the haphazard becomes more tangible than the planned. Within the installation, matter is in constant transformation and flux, from image to object and vice versa. A sculptor’s haptic need to make sense of the world, of the rush of sensory information around us, but also opening up space for the illicit, the disallowed to flourish, to continue becoming, to be physically present.
Sketch and Bread speaks of what Jumana Manna considers ‘uncontainable’ or ‘impossible’ landscapes, and of their possibility of regeneration. Their sculptural formulation manifests the tenacity of remaining.
Over the opening weekend of the Thessaloniki Biennial and in collaboration with the Thessaloniki Film Festival, Manna will also present her recent filmic work, Foragers. Gleaning for wild edible plants in Foragers becomes a form of resistance. Foragers ventures into the landscape of the Golan Heights, in Galilee and Jerusalem, where Israeli protection laws prohibit the collection of the artichoke-like akkoub and za’atar (thyme) and have resulted in fines and trials for hundreds of people caught collecting these native plants. For Palestinians, these laws constitute an ecological veil for legislation that further alienates them from their land while Israeli state representatives insist on their scientific expertise and duty to protect nature. Following the plants from the wild to the kitchen, from the chases between the foragers and the nature patrols, to courtroom defenses, Foragers captures the inherited love, joy, and knowledge of these traditions, alongside their resilience to legal prohibitions. By reframing the terms and constraints of preservation, the film raises questions around the politics of extinction, namely who determines what is made extinct, and what gets to live on.