I have a certain affinity for the absurd. Not absurdity for its own sake, mind you, but the kind that instructs and illuminates, that comments upon our world and helps us grapple with the harsh realities it confronts us with. Such is Bethlehem’s Walled Off Hotel.
When I first heard of this place almost a year ago, I launched upon a post… which then languished in my “drafts” folder, as sometimes happens. Now, independent journalist Jonathan Cook (if I wait, he often makes my life so much easier!) shares with readers his first-hand impressions of Bethlehem’s edgy art installation-cum-hotel — and the fact that what was originally conceived as a time-limited project has taken on an unexpected life of its own.
Face-off: The Walled Off Hotel vs. The Wall, 2017.
Background: The elusive street artist Banksy — famously both invisible and (supposedly) anonymous — has been pretty much a household name in his native UK for years, if not a cultural icon. In the States, however, he’s always been much lesser known. I, in fact, had never heard of him until I began encountering his graffiti-images on my occasional visits to Bethlehem (and during my residence there in 2013, before departing the country for good). It was especially that town’s Israeli-built Separation Wall that offered the artist a ready-made canvas for his work, whimsical yet politically charged images that reflect his long-time advocacy of the Palestinian cause.
Often rendered via an intricate stencilling technique, Banksy’s works of political and social commentary are laced with dark humor — and the absurd. (What, after all, was more absurd than Banksy’s 2018 London auction-house stunt— a framed Banksy painting that self-shredded an instant after the Sotheby’s hammer fell for over a million dollars, creating in essence a new work of art on the spot!)
Anyway, I was intrigued by his opening of this totally off-beat but completely real “art hotel” in early 2017. (Sample: the hotel boasts the “worst view in the world” — of the Separation Wall and its watchtowers looming only meters away.) The place is a hotel, museum, protest and gallery all in one, packed with the artworks and angry brilliance of its owner, created in hopes of bringing both Israeli and foreign tourists – and dialogue – to the West Bank city.
Beyond this, I will let Jonathan Cook tell the story, as he aptly connects all the dots. Cook’s article is reproduced in full below, and found online HERE.
Following that is a smorgasbord of related items, and finally a sampling of Banksy (or at least Banksy-style) art from Bethlehem, pulled from online sources.
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We check into Banksy’s bizarre Palestinian hotel, where the hospitality is as peculiar as the message is powerful
Anonymous British street artist Banksy made headlines in October when his $1.4 million artwork Girl with Balloon self-destructed by passing through a shredder concealed in its frame at a London auction moments after it had been bought.
But in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, a much larger Banksy art project – a hotel boasting “the worst view in the world” – appears to be unexpectedly saving itself from similar, planned destruction.
When it opened in March last year , The Walled Off Hotel – hemmed in by the eight-metre-high concrete wall built by Israel to encage Bethlehem – was supposed to be operational for only a year. But nearly two years on, as I joined those staying in one of its nine Banksy-designed rooms, it was clearly going from strength to strength.
Originally, The Walled Off Hotel was intended as a temporary and provocative piece of installation art, Continue reading