Eyeless in Gaza

I don’t feel comfortable with the position taken by the Bush administration with respect to Iraq. I have no doubt that Saddam Hussein is a ruthless dictator, and the world will be better off with him out of office and gone. The difficulty I have is while I understand that he has failed to disarm as mandated by the Security Council resolution, and thus must “face serious consequences”, diplomatic language for ‘war’; the fact is that the Iraq people, the same ones we say we will help find their way to freedom, will again be the victims. Victims have long memories, and the Middle East feasts on memories and on myths.

As an artist, this issue, and the plethora of bias press supporting war, made me engage in representing what is, in my opinion, the major dilemma that faces us all at this time. We are blind! This series of paintings “Eyeless in Gaza” was inspired by Aldous Huxley’s book of the same title, Eyeless in Gaza. My concept was to create figurative abstract work—faces without eyes—placing these images in Gaza; the principal city in the Gaza Strip.

Huxley’s central theme in Eyeless in Gaza is the failure of dogmatism. I feel that dogmatism seems to be the central them presented by the president, and mouthed by others; it comes over, as the only way is ‘my way’. While Huxley took the title for his novel from Milton’s poem Samson Agonistes, Bedford in Aldous Huxley remarks that ‘Eyeless in Gaza’ was the blueprint, as it were, of what Aldous set out to discover and to be’; that is: “the search for knowledge and intelligence, the true experience of reality, the concern for the present and the future of mankind.”

Gaza is said to be a “city of historical and religious importance.” Gaza came under Israel occupation in 1967. In May 1994 the city became the headquarters of the new Palestine Authority, which administers Palestinian areas in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. In September 1995 Israel and the PLO signed a second peace agreement extending the Palestinian Authority to some other West bank towns. The agreement also established elected 88-member Palestinian Council, which held its inaugural session in Gaza in March 1996. Gaza today, and since the intifada in 1987, is the center for political unrest and confrontation between Israelis and Palestinian. The City is an economic disaster. [Various sources used for this summary on Gaza]

Occupied by Egypt in the 15th Century, captured by the Arabs in AD 600’s, taken by Christian Crusaders in the 12th Century, returned to Muslim control in 1187; it fell to the Ottomans in the 16thCentury and was taken by the British during WW I. And on, and on, goes Gaza City.

We entered the 21st century with hope that at long last a true, honorable, settlement between Israel and Palestine would finally be realized. Sept 11th brought all eyes to focus on terrorism and then by subterfuge Iraq. I am not suggesting that the Bush administration is necessarily purposely misleading the American people. It is, however, blind! And, President Arafat? Another blind person! My paintings declare that we are ‘eyeless’ in Gaza; and one can extend this to being ‘eyeless’ in Iraq as well. For we simply can’t get out of the trap we have set for ourselves; witness the many changes in position taken by the Bush administration on terrorism, on Iraq, on the Middle East. There is a policy, yes, and it sustains the policy of blindness. What more can you expect, from either side, all sides, Israel, Palestine the USA, all when the principal players are blind.

Perhaps, Gaza, will some day find a solution for its people, composed entirely of Muslim Palestinian Arabs; swelled after the Arab Israeli war of 1948. But it will not find it for now, as all attention is focused on the seemingly imminent threat of a war in Iraq, and a long and tortured occupation by white, non Arab western, mostly Christian-Jewish— armed to the teeth— occupiers. There seems to be no way out.

Reviewed in 2000, Huxley’s Eyeless in Gaza is said to “symbolize the ferment of the thirties [written in 1936], the opposition between political extremes (communism/fascism, pacifism/militarism) that was eventually resolved by war [WW II]” Anthony Beavis is the central character in the novel and it tells his life story. In the final chapter Beavis goes to speak at a pacifist meeting in the face of death threats.

It is not my intention to do political art, rather to convey the sense of hopelessness—the ‘eyeless’ face of our current times. Eyeless in Gaza is the name of a British musical group who apparently also used the title name in Huxley’s book. See Gaza City and other sources of information on the Middle East.

I guess that I am hoping for a miracle cure for self-induced blindness.

Essay “Eyeless in Gaza” ©Roland Salazar Rose 2003  The paintings in this series (9) on Stonehenge paper are arranged three across. The series was painted in Mexico in 2003, with plans for showing the series in the USA in 2016 in Maine.