Seeing it for the Trees — A+P+I Performance

A+P+I Artist-in-Residence
Saturday, September 9, 2023 | 2:00 PM PDT
Live from the Jane B. Aron Art Museum, Oakland, California

Presented by Mills College Art Museum, Mills Performing Arts, and Oakland Art Murmur

Click image to view recording:
A color photograph of the artist Liat Berdugo, smiling with red lips while looking directly into the camera, their face framed by curls of brunette hair, dresssed in a black and white patterned jacket. This image sits to the left of a warped black and white image of a forest with an individual walking, back to, up a path.

Seeing it for the Trees is a performative lecture critically examining the role of forests in the formation and maintenance of Zionism. Instead of using a central screen, this performative lecture will use live computer code to text images to the phones of audience members during the event.

Berdugo presents archival photographs from the Jewish National Fund (JNF), alongside personal images, to understand the role of trees in Israel’s ethnonationalist statehood. Central to the project is a computational bot the artist wrote to “scrape” or download the 50,000+ images of the JNF photo archive from the Internet, and text herself one image per hour for over a year. Seeing it for the Trees focuses on how the interruptive quality of a bot can challenge the ideological frameworks upon which one was raised—what a close reading of images can untangle about land, ecology, and nationalism. Viewers will themselves get these “interruptions'' receiving images to their own personal devices. The work asks, can a person be anti-Zionist and still be Israeli? Can a person object to the core beliefs they grew up with, and still love the family and place that made them?

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition, Art+Process+Ideas: Liat Berdugo, Heesoo Kwon, Ranu Mukherjee, on view September 19 – December 3, 2023.

Liat Berdugo is an artist and writer whose work investigates embodiment, labor, and militarization in relation to capitalism, technological utopianism, and the Middle East. Her work has been exhibited and screened at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco), MoMA PS1 (New York), Transmediale (Berlin), and The Wrong Biennale (online), among others. Her writing appears in Rhizome, Temporary Art Review, Real Life, Places, and The Institute for Network Cultures, among others, and her latest book is The Weaponized Camera in the Middle East (Bloomsbury/I.B.Tauris, 2021). She is one half of the art collective, Anxious to Make, and is the co-founder of the Living Room Light Exchange, a monthly new media art series. Berdugo received an MFA from RISD and a BA from Brown University. She is currently an associate professor of Art + Architecture at the University of San Francisco. Berdugo lives and works in Oakland, CA, and is a Mills College Art Museum 2023 Art+Process+Ideas artist-in-residence.