contemporary art, Middle East, video installation

The Refrain, Judy Price, 2008

January 4, 2011

It is quite something to come across an eye hospital in a gallery. Each one could be a metaphor for the other. In both you can expect some kind of operation on your field of vision.

But to come across St John’s Eye Hospital in East Jerusalem is stranger still. In this two-channel video installation, Lucy Price takes us inside a cutting edge medical facility which caters to Jews and Arabs alike, regardless of ability to pay.

So there is a blindness in the admissions policy and a deep faith in the patients of either religion as they put their eyeballs at the mercy of staff who, likewise, appear to come from both sides of the Israel/Palestine divide.

And the threat appears very real. Eyelids are forced open. Hypodermics are wielded. Scalpels are lined up. If you wanted to take an eye for an eye, this would be the place to do it.

The backing track by sound artist Maia Urstad is a comfort. Ambient noises from the hospital subsume birdsong, traffic and calls to prayer from the neighbouring streets. So what you see is not all you get.

The Refrain culminates with an operation performed in semi-darkness and two gloved hands sewing up, one presumes, an incision. Even the world’s most intractable geopolitical problems may respond to skilled treatment of this sort.

This installation can be seen as part of Over Where at University of Brighton Gallery, until 20 January. The show features more than 10 video pieces by Judy Price as well as paintings by Madeleine Strindberg. Call 01273 543010 for more details.

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