Article by Mel Alexenberg

The Aesthetic Peace Group aims through art and creativity to inspire new approaches and create new metaphors for peace between Israel and its neighbors.

The Arab conflict with Israel is an aesthetic problem that calls for an artistic solution. All political processes and road maps from Oslo to Annapolis are doomed to failure because the conflict is not political but rather aesthetic.

Rug weavers from Islamic lands intentionally weave a patch of dissimilar pattern to break the symmetry of their rugs honoring their belief that only Allah creates perfection. Instead of seeing Israel as a blemish in the Islamic rug spreading across North Africa and the Middle East, Israel needs a to be seen as counter-pattern affirming Allah’s will.

Peace requires a fresh aesthetic metaphor that symbolizes the fulfillment of Mohammed’s prophecy in the Koran (Sura 17:104): “And we said to the Children of Israel, ‘scatter and live all over the world’…and when the end of the world is near we will gather you again into the Promised Land.”

In the Aesthetic Peace group, Jews, Muslims, and Christians join together to promote an aesthetic metaphor for peace in the Middle East.

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Article appearing in:
Leonardo: Journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology
Vol. 39, No. 3.

Cyberangels:
AESTHETIC PEACE PLAN FOR THE MIDDLE EAST
Mel Alexenberg

My exhibition at the Robert Guttmann Gallery of the Jewish Museum in Prague proposes that peace in the Middle East can emerge from a fresh metaphor in which the Arabs see Israel’s existence as Allah’s will. This metaphor, derived from Islamic art and thought, invites a shift in perception in which the conflict is seen as an aesthetic problem.

The central image shows a geometric pattern from a Damascus mosque superimposed on a map of North Africa and the Middle East. The Islamic pattern is painted in green, red, and metallic gold on a digital print mounted on canvas. Israel is a tiny sliver with an alternative pattern – blue stripes on a white background like the Jewish prayer shawl and the flag of Israel. An “angel of peace,” a digitized version of a Rembrandt drawing, is shown emerging from the blue stripes carrying the message of my aesthetic peace plan worldwide through the Internet. In the exhibition, actual rugs woven in Islamic lands were hanging beside my digital artworks.

Islamic art teaches Arabs to see their world as a continuous geometric pattern that extends across North Africa and the Middle East. Unfortunately, they see tiny Israel as a blemish that disrupts the pattern. From this perspective, Israel is viewed as an alien presence that they have continually tried to eliminate through war, terrorism, and political action. Arab television calls Israel a “cancer in the body of the Arab nation.”

Fortunately, the perceptual shift needed to lead to a genuine peace can be found in Islamic art and thought. In Islamic art, a uniform geometric pattern is purposely disrupted by the introduction of a counter-pattern to demonstrate that human creation is less than perfect. Based upon the belief that only Allah creates perfection, rug weavers from Islamic lands intentionally weave a patch of dissimilar pattern to break the symmetry of their rugs to demonstrate that they are not competing with Allah. In Islamic Textile Art: Anomalies in Kilims, we learn that devout Muslim women who weave kilim rugs would not be so arrogant as to even attempt a ‘perfect rug,’ since such perfection belongs only to Allah. Consequently, they deliberately break the rugs’ patterning as a mark of their humility.

Peace can be achieved when the Islamic world recognizes that they need Israel to realize their Islamic religious values. Israel provides the counter-pattern in the contiguous Islamic world that extends from Morocco to Pakistan. Just as a religious Muslim weaver introduces a counter-pattern in designing a rug as a mark of humility, so Muslim leaders can honor the diversity in all of God’s creations by perceiving Israel as the necessary break in symmetry. The ingathering of the Jewish people into its historic homeland in the midst of the Islamic world is the fulfillment of Mohammed’s prophecy in the Koran (Sura 17:104): “And we said to the Children of Israel, ‘scatter and live all over the world…and when the end of the world is near we will gather you again into the Promised Land.”

See my new blog http://www.aestheticpeace.blogspo

t.com.

A NEW PARADIGM FOR PEACE
AN OPEN LETTER TO
PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRIME MINISTER SALAAM FAYAD

You spoke about making peace with Israel in a Jerusalem Post interview, “This is a small and rough neighborhood, and we have to do it right, and doing it right requires a new paradigm, a new thinking.”

The new paradigm that you propose can be derived from Islamic art. It can provide a new way of thinking to bring peace between Jews and Arabs in their shared neighborhood. This paradigm shift can bring to an end seeing Israel as an alien presence in the Middle East and the 60-year war to wipe it off the map.

In Islamic art, a uniform geometric pattern is purposely disrupted by the introduction of a counter-pattern to demonstrate that human creation is less than perfect. Based upon the belief that only Allah creates perfection, rug weavers from Islamic lands intentionally weave a small patch of dissimilar pattern to break the symmetry of their rugs. The Islamic artisan does not want to be perceived as competing with the perfection of Allah.

Perhaps you see a continuous pattern like a beautiful Islamic rug running from Morocco on the Atlantic Ocean to the eastern borders of Iran. Shift your perception to see Israel, not as a blemish on the great Islamic rug, but as a small counter-pattern needed to realize Islamic values.

The ingathering of the Jewish People into its historic homeland in the midst of the Islamic world is the fulfillment of Mohammed’s prophecy in the Koran (Sura 17:104): “And we said to the Children of Israel, ‘scatter and live all over the world…and when the end of the world is near we will gather you again into the Promised Land.”

Switch your viewpoint to recognize the sovereign right of the Jews over the Land of Israel as the will of Allah as expressed in the Koran (Sura 5:20-21): “Remember when Moses said to his people: ‘O my people, call in remembrance the favor of God unto you, when he produced prophets among you, made you kings, and gave to you what He had not given to any other among the people. O my people, enter the Holy Land which God has assigned unto you.’”

Recognize the State of Israel as a blessing expressing Allah’s will.

Shalom/Salaam,
Professor Mel Alexenberg
Petach Tikvah (Opening to Hope), Israel

New Media artists will enjoy reading my books THE FUTURE OF ART IN A DIGITAL AGE: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness and EDUCATING ARTISTS FOR THE FUTURE: Learning at the Intersections of Art, Science, Technology, and Culture (Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press) http://www.press.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/hfs.cgi/00/278940.ctl and http://www.intellectbooks.co.uk/ppbooks.php?isbn=9781841501369

“Opens new vistas in the attempts to reconcile the newest developments in digital art and postmodern critical perspectives with the ancient concerns of the arts with the spiritual.”
– Stephen Wilson, author of Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology

“Mel Alexenberg, a very sophisticated artist and scholar of much experience in the complex playing field of art-science-technology, addresses the rarely asked question: How does the “media magic” communicate content.”
– Otto Piene, Director, MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies

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