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Claire Fontaine

Claire Fontaine / Foreigners Everywhere (Arabic, 2005, Suspended, wall or window mounted neon, framework, electronic transformer and cables.

Foreigners Everywhere is a work that has been in circulation for two decades. It manifests in various languages, combinations, and formats - including the 2013 publication Foreigners Everywhere, published by König books. This year, the Venice Biennale has also been named after this work—in a context in which the Biennial as a whole cannot be read as separate from the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people.

To be considered a foreigner everywhere is to have lost the place that was once considered home, to be denied access to it, or to never have attained it. For the Palestinian people—many of whom were forced from their lands in 1948 and continued to be obligated out of their properties through the enduring Zionist push for land—this is a permanent condition. Whole generations have grown up in refugee camps, waiting for the moment to return to their ancestral lands.

Claire Fontaine / Foreigners Everywhere (Arabic/Hebrew), 2010. Artwork card.

Foreigners Everywhere (Arabic/Hebrew), 2010, posits a dualism between two interrelated notions of foreignness that point directly at the ongoing unfettered violence against Palestinians. While Palestinians are displaced and forcibly removed from the fields that they have tended to for hundreds of years, the Israeli population is the real newcomer, and foreign to their own land. Foreign agricultural techniques and landscapes have been imported to the land including water-guzzling pines and Eucalyptus rather than the native ecology that successfully sustained locals for centuries.

Antisemitism has been rampant in Europe for centuries. While moments of stability and conviviality have existed, intense persecution and clashes were never far. The construction of ghettos was common across European cities and worked to slowly push out Jewish populations by limiting their interactions with the rest of the population—hugely affecting their livelihoods and connections. With the 19th and 20th century rise of European nationalisms, Jewish people were deemed foreigners and state enemies by growing fascist parties. Jewish communities, who maintained strong links through marriage and trade from Lisbon to Kochi, lost their status of belonging to new ideas of a uniform, heterogeneous, and patriotic state.

The Zionist movement began as an attempt to reconcile the Jewish identity with new fascist ideas of genetics and belonging. Establishing a state was put forward as a solution to the wide-spread network of persecuted minorities who were thought to belong to no land. The fabrication of a Jewish state—as well as the foundation of a nationalistic mechanism striving for the same kind of uniform population that 20th century dictatorships worked towards—came at the cost of the violent displacement of an indigenous population.

Foreigners Everywhere displays the way that the status of foreignness is enforced on one population and then another. Palestine—a land of tolerance where myriad religions once shared land and shrines—became mired in the European development of fascism and the subsequent propaganda relating to its defeat.

Neon blue text "Foreigners Everywhere" in Arabic part of Claire Fontaine's "Foreigners Everywhere, 2010" artwork.
Neon blue text "Foreigners Everywhere" in Hebrew, part of Claire Fontaine's "Foreigners Everywhere, 2010" artwork.

Claire Fontaine / Foreigners Everywhere (Arabic/Hebrew), 2010

Claire Fontaine is a feminist, conceptual artist, founded in Paris in 2004 by Fulvia Carnevale and James Thornhill, an Italian-British artist duo who declared themselves her assistants. Since 2018 Claire Fontaine lives and works in Palermo and has a studio in the historical centre of the Kalsa near Piazza Magione.
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