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by David Behar Perahia and Dan Farberoff

Commoning: Environmental Reconciliation in the Work of Common Views

The Common Views collective, founded by artists David Behar Perahia and Dan Farberoff, applies a commoning, social-ecological perspective to arts engagement. We do so in the quest for what we’ve come to term Environmental Reconciliation. What Environmental Reconciliation is, how this idea has evolved and is still evolving over the course of our projects, and how it finds expression in the work and methodology of Common Views, form the main thread of this essay and are at the center of our presentation at the Commoning Curatorial and Artistic Education summer school at documenta fifteen. We present our methodology, which engenders co-learning and calls for an alternative approach to curation, one that is centered on engagement, mediation, and process.

Common Views came about in 2019 following an art residency period in the Israeli town of Arad, which culminated in an invitation to create an exhibition for the Arad Contemporary Art Centre (ACAC).[1] Our proposal, to create a participatory art project as the basis for our exhibition, led to us working with local communities in the region of Arad, an area where conflict is present on many levels—social, political, and environmental. During this time, over a period of eight months in 2019-20, working together with curator Irit Carmon-Popper, we began examining the environmental aspects inherent in local, social, and political challenges, framing these within the commoning perspective of a social-ecological whole.[2]

During our work, initially in Arad and later in other regions, we have evolved the basic tenets and modus operandi which now form the backbone of Common Views’ projects. These center on the adoption of a commoning perspective and attitude, applying participatory strategies, and aiming for horizontality at all levels of a project. This approach goes beyond project process and structure, forming a basic understanding that questions entrenched hierarchical attitudes of human vs. human and human over nature.[3] As we begin work and our on-site research deepens, we enter into conversation with locals, which is aimed at identifying points of contention and nodes of tension within the set of relationships between local communities, framing these in the context of their relationship to the environment. From this, we evolve social-ecological themes that guide the devised processes and the objects of mediation employed during a project. This methodology, associated processes, and hoped-for outcomes form the basis of what we term Environmental Reconciliation.

One of our first steps, when working in a specific local context, is to reach out to local “agents” as part of a period of site-specific research. Such agents—a term which implies agency and active involvement—may be officials, creatives, activists, community leaders, educators, researchers, and other persons who are already engaged in a context and can offer insights into the relevant local issues. With them, we initiate a conversation, which is focused on listening, establishing trust, and forging solidarity, and is aimed at unearthing relevant questions that invite exploration.[4] As a project evolves, our network of agents expands into an intricate web, sometimes encompassing dozens of individuals and organizations.[5]

This embedded research gives rise to mediating themes and elements, which can be sites or objects,[6] and to associated, commoning actions that induce interaction and participation. These actions serve as catalysts for potential transformation,[7] and are aimed at engendering a sense of mutual responsibility and of empathy with the other and with the environment. A mediating element will often evolve over the course of our projects and cross over into other local contexts, a process we can observe when reflecting on previous Common Views projects, beginning with our initial project in the region of Arad.

fig. 1. Trilingual list of agents and primary project participants. From Common Views: Sourcing Water exhibition at ACAC, Arad, 2020


Arad and Al Baqia: The Initial Inspiration for Common Views
Arad is a small town of some 30,000 inhabitants, situated in Israel’s eastern Negev Desert just west of the Dead Sea. Founded in great fanfare as Israel’s first “planned desert city,” it has since alternated through periods of boom and bust, often languishing between its potential as a promising desert outpost and a depressed socio-economic reality. The town, whose residents are almost exclusively Jewish, is situated in an extremely arid desert, amid a large population of Bedouins, estimated at some 15,000, who live in partially authorized villages or in scattered, officially “unrecognized” encampments. These exist in a decades-long limbo between permanence and impermanence, with Bedouins forbidden by authorities from practicing their traditional nomadic migrations, while also receiving no official permission to establish permanent dwellings. Composed of a collection of shacks, such hamlets have no paved roads, are not connected to the electricity grid, and crucially, have no official water supply.

In contrast, Arad’s residents, living in the relatively water-rich town, with its orderly, paved streets, leafy gardens, and sanitation facilities, appear almost entirely disconnected from the actual realities of the neighboring Bedouins and their surrounding desert environment. For most, with some notable exceptions, the surrounding desert forms a scenic backdrop to the townscape, a place one might venture into for leisure activities, but certainly not as an environment in which one lives. This initial impression served as our inspiration for the title Common Views, reflecting the common desert landscape shared by town dwellers and Bedouins alike, while also highlighting the disparate ways in which this landscape is perceived when viewed by either community. The term also brings to mind the prevalence of common misconceptions and the need for advancing a shared, common perspective.

fig. 2. A Bedouin “Unrecognized Village” at Al Baqi’a Valley, on the outskirts of Arad. These makeshift settlements are composed of a collection of shacks, have no paved roads, are not connected to the electricity grid, and have no official water supply. Common Views: Sourcing Water, Al Baqi’a, Israel, 2020

fig. 3. Participants of a project action on a visit to a Bedouin “Unrecognized Village”. The makeshift structures in the background and lack of paved roads and other facilities are typical for such settlements. Common Views: Sourcing Water, Al Baqi’a, Israel, 2020

ig. 4. Street view of Arad, artist with donkey. From Sortie, video performance. The video diptych follows a day-long journey with donkey—a common Bedouin mode of transport—going from a Bedouin “Unrecognized Village” near Arad into town and back, exemplifying the Bedouin urban experience and the way in which town residents are disconnected from their neighbors. Common Views: Sourcing Water, Arad, Israel, 2020

fig. 5. Line drawing The Gap, showing Arad’s skyline and the desert backdrop. From the Common Views: Sourcing Water exhibition at ACAC, Arad, Israel, 2020


As part of our initial on-site research in the area of Arad, we entered into a conversation with Bedouin community leaders at Al Baqi’a, a broad desert valley that lies only a few kilometers to the east of the town. Al Baqi’a is home to a number of extended Bedouin families living in makeshift settlements under an ever-present threat of forced displacement.[8] Asked what potential actions could help improve the community’s uncertain situation, the community leaders proposed that we engage with the local, age-old tradition of rainwater harvesting. They introduced us to the many water cisterns that until only a few decades ago served as the principal water source for local inhabitants. Most of these cisterns have since fallen into disrepair, following the introduction of an official water pipeline that now passes through the valley. The Bedouins replaced these cisterns with plastic water tanks and an unauthorized network of self-laid, agricultural PVC pipes that bring the water the last few kilometers of open desert, from taps at the pipeline to their homes.[9] The abandoned cisterns were subjected to actions of enclosure by the state, which designated them as archeological sites, effectively precluding their maintenance. The Bedouins view the many cisterns dotting the area as representations of their connection to the land and an important part of their cultural landscape. We in turn could see how this introduction of an official water supply, controlled by government, and the associated fallout, exemplified a dramatic shift in the Bedouins’ existence, from self-reliance to dependence on the state.

fig. 6. The artists inspecting a water cistern during preliminary on-site research. Common Views: Sourcing Water, Al Baqi’a, Israel, 2020

fig. 7. Water pipes, self-laid by Bedouins, stretching through the desert. This improvised network of exposed pipes and water tanks has replaced the traditional methods of rainwater harvesting which had previously sustained local inhabitants. From the photographic series Liquid Gold. Common Views: Sourcing Water, Al Baqi’a, Israel, 2020

Water: Equity and Sustainability
These initial interactions led to us honing-in on the issue of “Water as a Scarce Resource” as our mediating theme for this project. This theme encompasses pressing social-political issues, such as the inequitable access to resources and the civic inequality inherent in the vast disparities existing between local communities. At the same time, the theme also allowed us to expand the conversation to address the underlying issues of control and exploitation of natural resources, the unfolding global water crisis, climate crisis and desertification, and the relationships between communities in the context of the relationship of humans to the environment as a whole. In short, through a simple re-framing, via a social-ecological perspective, we could begin addressing a myriad of interrelated, contested, and otherwise potentially volatile issues. By referring to the tradition of rainwater harvesting, as well as to other environmentally sustainable Bedouin practices, we employed native knowledges to advance an overall vision for sustainable desert habitation—linking past and future, tradition and transformation—and offering an additional entry point for local engagement.

In discussion with the local Bedouins, we selected a large cistern known as Bir Umm Al Atin[10] as the site for a series of interventions. This required that we enter into a conversation with the heads of the Bedouin family in whose unofficial territory the cistern is located. Such issues of territory and ownership formed an additional layer of exploration, with Bir Umm Al Atin, for example, located within the projected territory of the Bedouin family, but also within the projected territories of six different government agencies, a nearby military firing zone and others. This complex vying for ownership is reflected at all levels, with competing authorities seeking to impose their control over the land and its resources. Our intervention at the site required that we navigate these complex power dynamics, ownership relationships, and acts of enclosure relating to the site, entering into negotiations with Israel’s Antiquity Authority, the Arad municipality, the regional environmental agency and others.

fig. 8. Map of agent interactions. Common Views: Sourcing Water, ACAC, Arad, 2020


The Bir Umm Al Atin cistern served as the site for a series of mediating actions, which included an introductory tour, an action to renew the rainwater harvesting channels leading to the cistern, an action to renew the cistern’s sedimentation pool, and finally a performance event at the site. These actions served as points of mediation for the wider Bedouin community and for the Jewish community from the nearby town and further afield. This resulted in a continuous conversation among them, which engendered solidarity, forming a for-purpose community.[11] This successful bringing together of Bedouin and Jewish children, of religious nationalists and liberals, of the disenfranchised and the privileged, independent women and conservative patriarchs to work with each other and collaborate meaningfully, should not be underestimated in light of the region’s deeply entrenched divisions. The cistern served as a common ground, bringing together the different interests of those with a love of nature, a love of “The Land,” of history, of archeology, of ecology, of culture, and of tradition, while aligning their various needs with those of the natural environment.

fig. 9. Participants with an archeologist during a project action at Bir Umm Al Atin cistern. Common Views: Sourcing Water, Al Baqi’a, Israel, 2020

fig. 10. Participants reviving rainwater harvesting channels during a project action at Bir Umm Al Atin cistern. Common Views: Sourcing Water, Al Baqi’a, Israel, 2020

fig. 11. Audience and performers during Perforated Earth, a site-specific performance at Bir Umm Al Atin cistern, devised by project collaborator, artist Iris Nais. Common Views: Sourcing Water, Al Baqi’a, Israel, 2020

ig. 12. Audience during Perforated Earth, a site-specific performance at Bir Umm Al Atin cistern, devised by project collaborator, artist Iris Nais. Common Views: Sourcing Water, Al Baqi’a, Israel, 2020

fig. 13. Charged interactions of Common Views community members on the project’s WhatsApp group, during a period of heightened political tensions in March 2020. Common Views: Sourcing Water, 2020


Documentation from our project actions at Al Baqi’a was embedded into artworks presented at the eventual exhibition at the ACAC, serving as further mediating elements and allowing for engagement with an even wider audience. This is one example of a central aspect of our work, which involves the way in which we resolve the issue of translating actions and processes into mediating objects and presentations, with the aim of widening public engagement. In this way, the exploration of the theme of “Water as a Scarce Resource” gave birth to a series of new, reflective artworks that served as mediating elements for the issues of ownership, inequity, and exploitation mentioned earlier.[12] To mediate the Bedouins’ current challenges of water sourcing to a wider, largely unaware public, a network of water tanks and black PVC pipes, scavenged in the desert, was set up in the gallery, spilling out into the street below. The engagement also included educational tours for schoolchildren of the exhibition, public visits to cisterns and nearby Bedouin settlements, academic seminars and more.

fig. 14. A section of the installation Allotment, composed of water tanks and pipes scavenged in the desert, mediating the Bedouins’ challenges of water sourcing. Common Views: Sourcing Water exhibition at ACAC, Arad, Israel, 2020

fig. 15. Stills from Sourcing Water, a video performance exploring the large gaps in water availability and consumption that exist between Arad and Al Baqi’a. The artist is depicted carrying water from a cistern in the valley up into town, in a futile attempt to fill a large swimming pool in Arad’s country club. Common Views: Sourcing Water exhibition, ACAC, Arad, Israel, 2020

fig. 16. Schoolchildren on an educational tour, viewing photographic prints from the series Becken Boden, depicting a collection of cistern openings and the enclosure of water sources. The prefix Umm, which means “mother,” is commonly attached to local cistern names, reflecting a perception of the cisterns as feminine and uterine. Common Views: Sourcing Water exhibition at ACAC, Arad, Israel, 2020

fig. 17. Schoolchildren on an educational tour, viewing interviews and documentation of participatory actions at Al Baqi’a. Common Views: Sourcing Water exhibition at ACAC, Arad, Israel, 2020


Our occupation with the theme of “Water as a Scarce Resource” and how it reflects on the equitability and sustainability of resource use, evolved in discussion with several environmental researchers[13] into a vision for a potential commoning proposal for the area. Our ambitious plan revived a dormant proposal by local activists for a biosphere reserve that would balance the needs of the Bedouins and the desert environment at Al Baqi’a. We vastly expanded this proposal to encompass the entire region surrounding the town of Arad, including its urban centers, villages, and nature reserves.[14] This conceptual, regional plan for a social-ecological commons that brings the needs of all inhabitants and lifeforms into consideration, was presented at the exhibition, generating a much-needed conversation about the inherent value of such an inclusive perspective.

fig. 18. Artist and local Bedouins discussing a map of the Common Views proposal for a biosphere reserve in the Arad region. Common Views: Sourcing Water exhibition at ACAC, Arad, Israel, 2020

Our focus on the Bedouins’ precarious situation received criticism from some visitors to the exhibition, with the overall perception of the Bedouin community among the Jewish population being largely negative and focused on issues of criminality, violence, and a perceived disloyalty to the state. However, our reframing of the Bedouins’ social, economic, and political exclusion within a social-ecological perspective and our proposed vision for equally addressing the needs of all local inhabitants allowed for a shifting of the conversation away from these habitual ruts. This perspective also enabled Arad’s mayor, who initially shunned the exhibition, to begin to acknowledge the compelling link between the fates of the Jewish town, its neighboring Bedouin communities, and that of the environment, which they all share.

In another example of us successfully employing a social-ecological perspective to address contested issues, we again utilized the mediating theme of “Water as a Scarce Resource” in a similar fashion during a subsequent Common Views project in 2021 in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor. We were invited to create work there as part of a city-wide event and chose to focus on access to water as a reflection of the civic inequality between Jewish and Palestinian residents of this neighborhood, which straddles East and West Jerusalem. These broader, socio-political divisions were reflected in the tension between the differing viewpoints and interests of residents, the site’s curator, the site’s owner, nationalistically bent funders, and the municipality. This tension eventually resulted in our installation being censored by the anxious organizers on the grounds that it was “political.” It was finally allowed, following a long discussion in which we successfully argued that the rationale behind the work was social-ecological rather than political.[15] The adoption of this perspective therefore allowed us to present in this authorized exhibition, endorsed by the authorities, the contested reality existing only a short distance away, which would have otherwise been excluded from this space and left unseen by visiting audiences.

fig. 19. Visitors viewing a video diptych, part of the installation A Cup of Water for the Messiah, which explores a sustainable, social-ecological vision for Jewish and Palestinian residents of Jerusalem’s neighborhood of Abu Tor. The artists rolled a large water tank through the neighborhood’s streets, which they used as a prop for initiating conversations with residents on the theme of water and for collecting their written responses on its surface, presented as part of the installation at the exhibition. Common Views: A Cup of Water for the Messiah, Abu Tor, Jerusalem, Israel, 2020

fig. 20. Visitors viewing a drawing, exploring a water-sharing commons as part of a sustainable, social-ecological vision for Jewish and Palestinian residents of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor. Common Views: A Cup of Water for the Messiah, Abu Tor, Jerusalem, Israel, 2020

The Way: Crossing Divisions
Another mediating theme arising from our explorations in Al Baqi’a and Arad is that of the Path or Way, as a link between divided communities and their environment. This theme initially took shape as a concept for a proposed walking trail that would link the Jewish town with its neighboring Bedouin settlements via a number of water cisterns. This led to us creating waymarkers for the proposed trail—mediating objects, inspired by the water-sourcing reality of the Bedouin community. These objects combined materials and forms in a fusion of traditional elements, such as the “Rujm”—the conical stone heaps that are used by Bedouins to mark desert paths—with contemporary elements, such as the cube-shaped water tanks that have replaced the abandoned cisterns. This process of creation also served as an opportunity to engage with the local Bedouin women’s community, which up to this point remained entirely inaccessible to us, through an invitation to local Bedouin and Jewish women to knit and weave tapestries that were then incorporated into these “Rujm'' sculptures.[16] The sculptures, presented at the ACAC exhibition, as symbolic markers of the proposed path, present yet another example of us abstracting and stripping down complex issues and inviting participation in “re-dressing” them.

fig. 21. Rujm sculptures, combining knitting and weaving by Bedouin and Jewish women, at the Common Views: Sourcing Water exhibition, ACAC, Arad, Israel, 2020

fig. 22. Knitters from Arad posing next to creations by their Bedouin counterparts, at the Common Views: Sourcing Water exhibition. The Bedouin women did not wish to be photographed. ACAC, Arad, Israel, 2020


The concept of the waymarker served as a stepping stone and a mediating element for our next project in the region in 2021, taking place in nearby Kuseife—a large Bedouin settlement of nearly 20,000 inhabitants. Here, the mediating theme of “The Water Way,” linking local communities through their shared landscape, formed the central thread of this project, as we came to understand the important role that desert ways play in Bedouin tradition and culture. With an aim to increase the horizontality and accessibility of our community engagement, we collaborated with local Bedouin artist, poet Saad Abu Ghanam, and enlisted several female Bedouin environmental and creative educators at an early stage of the project. Together, our work involved groups of local Bedouin schoolchildren and women, as potential agents for transformation, and community elders as a link to past tradition. In this project, we relied again on existing native knowledges to advance a vision for sustainable desert habitation, linking past and future. We decided, however, to exclude the overall vision for a biosphere reserve in the area, judging that it would unnecessarily complicate our communication with the groups with whom we were working.

fig. 23. Bedouin schoolchildren with environmental educator Manar Elubra. Common Views: The Water Way, Kuseife, Israel, 2021


In our interactions with local agents in Kuseife, we were confronted early on with issues of enclosure vis-à-vis the landscape, of ownership of land, and the perception and lack of availability of public space, with local communities having been displaced to the area forty years ago by the creation of an adjacent Israeli air-force base. This led to competition for space and at times violent conflict between extended family clans, resulting in an overall lack of solidarity and cooperation among them. The situation required ongoing negotiations with the different, competing power-brokers—be they regional planners, Kuseife’s municipality, rival politicians or clan-affiliated schools—to unravel the intricacies of these competitive and delicate relationships. In this, the theme of “The Way,” as a traditionally neutral territory, which allows for the crossing of these divisions, became pivotal.[17] The “Rujm” served us again as a waymarker on this symbolic path, an extension of the trail from Al Baqi’a and Arad. This concept evolved during the project in response to the local realities of the more sedentary, agriculture-based communities of Kuseife. This led to the collective creation of a sustainable desert garden around the “Rujm”—now doubling as a dew-harvester—which served as our site for a series of mediating actions with schoolchildren and the wider community on the topic of sustainability. The creation of the desert garden was guided by us in collaboration with the Bedouin environmental educators and combined traditional native practices of desert agriculture with contemporary approaches to sustainability.

fig. 24. Schoolchildren taking part in the creation of a sustainable desert garden, with dew-harvesting Rujm. Common Views: The Water Way, Kuseife, Israel, 2021



A pivotal element in this project was a focus on language, informed by our collaboration with poet Saad Abu Ghanam. While we found that locals have a limited familiarity with notions of formalist, visual, or performative arts, writing, spoken word, and language as a whole play a central role in Bedouin society and culture. This led to us focusing on poetry, creative writing, and storytelling as primary avenues for participatory, creative engagement. One example of this was the exploration of storytelling with Bedouin elders who then shared their stories with the children. Creative writing workshops for these schoolchildren produced original poetry on the topic of water and the way in the desert, which they then performed at the project’s final event. Calligraphic interpretations by a local Bedouin artist of these poems were also presented at this event.

fig. 25. Schoolchildren reading poetry they had written during the course of the project. Common Views: The Water Way, Kuseife, Israel, 2021
fig. 26. Performance of Bedouin music by Ensemble Shargi and Yair Dalal at the project’s final event, with calligraphic interpretations of poetry by children in the background, created by local artist Lubna Masoudin. Common Views: The Water Way, Kuseife, Israel, 2021


Kuseife’s concept of a dew-harvesting waymarker served as a seed for a proposal for our next project in the region, in the area of the nearby Bedouin settlement of Al Fur’a, the site of an ongoing civic struggle against a planned phosphate strip mine. Here, we are again confronted with the combined social-ecological challenges of resource-sharing and exploitation, the realities of a disadvantaged community’s relationship to the authorities, the relationship between citizens, the government, and business interests, and the relationship of humans to their environment. Our proposal encompasses the collective creation of a number of installations, serving as waymarkers on the symbolic path linking communities in the region, through their environment. These combine elements from previous projects, such as the sustainable desert garden, the lattice inspired by water tanks used by the Bedouins, the use of weaving handiwork and the integration of local stories and calligraphic representations.

fig. 27. Sketch from a project proposal for the area of the Bedouin settlement of Al Fur’a, showing the creation of a dew-harvesting waymarker with desert garden, and a combination of elements from previous projects. Common Views, 2022.


The Gathering Space: Meeting, Displacement, and Resilience
An additional example of our use of a mediating element is that of the gathering space. Our conversations with Bedouins, and many of the interactions between project participants, took place in traditional Bedouin communal gathering spaces, known as “Shig.” These are spaces where Bedouin men traditionally gather around the fire to drink coffee and tea, converse and share stories, and where they receive guests. Formerly camel-hair tents, “Shigs” nowadays are usually constructed from corrugated iron sheets and other cheap, lightweight, and easily reusable building materials, reflecting both Bedouin traditions of light, impermanent construction but also, importantly, the ever-present threat of demolition and the need to recover rapidly following such a calamity.

fig. 28. Artists at a gathering in a typical Shig with the head of a Bedouin family, while on a visit to an “unrecognized” settlement during a project action. Common Views: Sourcing Water, Al Baqi’a, Israel, 2020


In another example of us stripping down and redressing complex issues, the concept of a gathering space and its aesthetics formed the basis for the evolution of a series of new mediating elements. One such element, shown at the exhibition at the ACAC, is a sculptural installation that used the positioning of a couple of tattered corrugated iron sheets, often found strewn in the desert near Bedouin settlements, to create a very pared-down, precarious, and confined semblance of a gathering space. A recorded conversation with two Bedouin community leaders, telling of their insecure existence under the constant threat of eviction, was replayed using the sheets themselves as resonators. This was accompanied by video projections, in which tattered corrugated iron sheets are seen and heard as they blow and rattle in the desert wind. The result is somewhat ominous, aimed at conveying the unsettledness of the Bedouins’ situation.

fig. 29. First Impressions, sculptural installation with sound, exploring the Bedouins’ insecure existence. Common Views: Sourcing Water exhibition at ACAC, Arad, Israel, 2020


In our subsequent project in Kuseife, we made use of this concept of “Shig,” which is very familiar to locals, to create large communal gathering spaces for our final presentations and celebration of the project.[18] These spaces offered a neutral location where all members of the community could gather together, regardless of clan affiliation, and a hosting venue where they felt comfortable to welcome outsiders, namely members of the Jewish community from outside of Kuseife.

We also made use of the element of the gathering space in other geographical and cultural contexts. Following our initial exploration of the principles of the biosphere reserve in Al Baqi’a and Arad, we proceeded to develop a project in 2021, within the area of two established biosphere reserves in Germany.[19] These are composed of large regions, encompassing towns, villages, agriculture, industry, and vast swaths of nature protection areas. In this complex setting, our conversation with local agents involved biosphere reserve administrators, local cultural institutions and organizations, municipalities, local creatives, environmental researchers,[20] and others, resulting in the development of a number of mediating elements. An invitation to create artwork in public space in the biosphere reserve of Spreewald, a large inland delta composed of a labyrinth of waterways and wetlands, brought us to explore the mediating element of the gathering space within the context of climate change-induced displacement and its associated global and regional socio-political fallout. The resulting sculptural installation investigated the form that a shelter erected by locals from Spreewald would take, following an impending natural calamity and flood. The piece, created in collaboration with a local craftsperson, combined local materials, aesthetics, vernacular design, and recorded writings by locals, telling of their relationship to the watery landscape, aimed at creating a space for congregation with the surrounding nature.

fig. 30. Development of concept for a shelter/gathering space for Spreewald, using local forms such as the typical roof gables and boat ribs. Common Views: Archa, 2021
fig. 31. Artist inside the installation. The materials are scavenged wood, sourced from nearby forests, and linen and hemp, which were traditionally produced in the area. The blue fabric is colored using a local, traditional wax dyeing technique as inspiration. Common Views: Archa, Spreewald, Germany, 2021

fig. 32: Local, elderly amateur poet Edith Baatz during an audio recording of her reading poems and singing songs about life in Spreewald, which we incorporated into the installation. Common Views: Archa, Spreewald, Germany, 2021


Also in 2021, we responded to a bid to create artwork for public space in the southern Polish city of Kraków. Taking place within the setting of the old Jewish quarter of Kazimierz, once a thriving center of Jewish culture, the event’s overall theme of “Kumzits,” referring to the Jewish-Zionist custom of gathering around a campfire, brought up echoes of the Bedouin “Shig” and its rituals.[21] This led to us further exploring the role that such gatherings and their associated rituals play in the social-ecological resilience of societies on the move, and honing in again on the issue of displacement, both historical and contemporary. Investigating the area’s local history, culture, and contemporary concerns, in conversation with our initial agents in Kraków, local performance artist Adam Zdunczyk, anthropologist Oskar Kreson, and members of the Curatorial Collective for Public Art, we developed a provisional, modular gathering space as our mediating element. Called the “Tent of Assembly,” this was accompanied by a “Procession of the Displaced,” which was performed by volunteers and set out each morning from the center of Kazimierz to erect the shelter each day at a new location. The structure was then dismantled and carried back in the evening. The dismantled structure fit into a wooden box, carried by the procession, which served as a symbolic “ark” of social-ecological resilience, containing the elements required by a society to sustain itself, as it is uprooted and displaced. Serving as a hub for this gathering space, the box was placed in the center of the tent and covered with a printed cloth portraying the journey of displacement. From it emanated a string of recorded recollections of displaced persons currently residing in Kraków, telling of their displacement, journey, and search for home. At the basis of the design for the shelter lay versatility of construction, the inspiration from nomadic, vernacular forms, and the reliance on local, gathered materials, which called for broad local participation.

fig. 33. Procession of the Displaced, led by project collaborator, performance artist Adam Zdunczyk, seen here during a morning reading of the proclamation. Common Views: Tent of Assembly, Kraków, Poland, 2021

fig. 34. Common Views: Tent of Assembly, on the banks of the Vistula, at one of its series of daily locations in Kazimierz. Kraków, Poland, 2021

Fig. 35. Common Views: Tent of Assembly, inside view with wooden box, covered with printed cloth, and scroll of proclamation text. Kraków, Poland, 2021

fig. 36. Common Views: Tent of Assembly, Assembly Instructions. The procession and installation in Kraków were designed to take place in the absence of the artists. Detailed instructions guided the volunteer performers in the construction of the tent, offering a choice of fifteen different permutations for the modular structure’s size and shape (Listed A-O, upper left). Kraków, Poland, 2021


Following an invitation to present the work of Common Views at documenta fifteen in Kassel, we erected the “Tent of Assembly” in front of the Fridericianum building in the center of the city, in dialogue with documenta fifteen’s concept of Majelis.[22] The installation attracted a spontaneous gathering of passers-by, who sat down inside the tent to engage in an easeful exchange, touching on issues of nomadism, architecture and vernacular forms, home, displacement and exclusion, politics and war, and the claimed expressions of antisemitism within documenta. This gathering together in a circle, facing each other while sitting at ground level, resulted in a quality of conversation, of sharing, listening, and witnessing that seemed much deeper and gentler than the exchange taking place outside concerning these issues.

fig. 37. Common Views: Tent of Assembly, at documenta fifteen, Kassel, Germany, 2022


Outsiders in Local Context
The process of reframing and mediation that we have discussed is accompanied by a number of questions that we pose continuously over the course of our work. These relate to our position as artists from outside of a particular local context, who initiate and direct collaborative and participatory processes that are pertinent to it. One such question is the conditions for a successful immersion within a given location, while we work across geographical, cultural, and community contexts. We’ve come to realize that our position as outsiders, rather than allowing us to work superficially, demands that we delve deeply into each given context, and that we do so rapidly. While our work with local agents facilitates our landing and positioning, and aids in us acquiring insights into relevant local issues, we are often confronted with miscommunication, language boundaries, difficulties in translation, and residual mistrust. And while we may achieve a certain level of access to a broader cultural context, there are always subcontexts that remain inaccessible to us or that require additional mediation, as in the case of the Bedouin women’s community. By weaving these challenges into our process, we demonstrate solidarity, which generates good will. We also prefer to let the members of these communities speak for themselves, and we don’t pretend that we can speak for them.

One advantage to this position of outsider is the energy, enthusiasm, and a general openness for the possibility of transformation that can be generated for a limited timeframe, aided by a sense of a stepping out of the day-to-day. This was a major factor in the success of our project in Kuseife, for example. Another advantage is what one might term “cyclical learning”: by performing a reflection, and repeatedly revisiting the same questions as we move from project to project, from location to location, we deepen our learning through a comparative approach. We use the inspiration from one project, and bring the lessons we’ve learnt to the following, with each cultural context having an impact on the next. This leads to a question about sustainability and continuity after a project ends and what happens once we leave. We certainly do not consider ourselves community leaders, and we prefer not to take ownership away from the community. Instead, we establish a dialogic space and commoning actions that plant the seeds for the possibility for further, future actions by leading community agents.[23]

Another related issue is that of how we position ourselves in relation to authorities in any given situation, which is a combination of both working against and working with, and the need to strike a balance between the two. In the Arad region, this issue emerged in our interactions with the municipal and government authorities, but also with clan and patriarchal power-structures, as mentioned earlier, necessitating ongoing negotiation and repositioning. As part of this negotiation, we often make use of our prerogative as outsiders to enable interventions in situations of enclosure and lack of access that exclude the disadvantaged causes we aim to promote, as is evident in the case of our projects in Al Baqi’a and in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor.


In conclusion we return to Environmental Reconciliation as the overarching concept for our work. We approach this idea as a continuous question, a philosophical crystal or gem, whose facets are examined afresh with every situation, project, and action. In a nutshell, Environmental Reconciliation is the adoption of a commoning perspective and a social-ecological re-framing within the context of arts engagement, as a way to better involve the public in working towards understanding, unpacking, and redressing contested issues. Doing so, we offer a vision of possible social-ecological transformation. To us, the political and the environmental are firmly intertwined, and to address the one we must necessarily address the other. We do so by expanding the context in which these issues exist so as to include the social-ecological whole. We see our role as catalysts of a commoning process. We do not provide answers but rather identify questions and transform these into actions and interactions that rely on local knowledges and experience, resulting in a process of co-learning for us and for the people working with us. Together, we co-create interventions that aim to reawaken relevant, sustainable local traditions and local heritage, and experiences that engender a positive emotional involvement through commoning actions that serve as a mutual ground for diverse communities to collaborate.

In this, we look for guidance in models of sustainability, such as UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme’s biosphere reserve model, the concept of environmental citizenship, the philosophy of deep ecology, and other models that present global solutions to local challenges. At this stage of our work, we wish to grow our collective in order to enhance our cross-disciplinary explorations through developing long-term collaborations. We invite those interested in further exploring Environmental Reconciliation and interested in becoming involved in the work of Common Views to reach out to us.

Biosphere Berlin
Common Views’ current project, Biosphere Berlin, is an art-based, trans-disciplinary action research collaboration that re-conceptualises Berlin as an urban biosphere. We are collaborating with researchers from the University for Sustainable Development Eberswalde (HNEE), the Green Art Lab Alliance (GALA) and the Biosphere Reserves Institute, in conjunction with the new Berlin-Barnim Urban Biosphere Region initiative. The current phase of this multi-year project takes place from October 2022 to February 2023, in the Berlin district of Tegel, Reinickendorf, funded by the Berliner Projektfonds Urbane Praxis. The project investigates the relationship between residents, the biosphere and the city. An important concern of the project is to broaden and rethink the understanding of the relationship between nature and culture, between city and the natural landscape, between built spaces and wild spaces: the perceived opposites of "nature" and "culture", "grown" and "built", "planned" and "organic" are reconsidered as potentially coexisting, and not as mutually exclusive. We are working with local residents to develop participatory approaches that support this process. The project includes workshops, participatory art actions, installations, presentations and guest speakers events exploring the project themes.

The Common Views collective, formed by artists David Behar Perahia and Dan Farberoff, applies a commoning, social-ecological perspective in the context of arts engagement. Established in 2019, Common Views has worked on extended process-based, site-specific projects in Europe and the Middle East. The collective is currently developing new cross-national projects, within the framework of biosphere reserves in Germany, Kenya, and Colombia, as well as their next project with Bedouins, in the Israeli Negev Desert.

David Behar Perahia, artist and researcher, works on the seam between sculpture and architecture. He examines the interplay between art and action, and examines the concept of "place" with reference to cultural, social, historical, and physical-geographical elements. Through his works, he intervenes in existing places while changing, shifting, and challenging the perception of reality as an absolute, creating an active viewing experience in which the viewers are an integral component of the work, from a concept that extends the relationship art/environment/audience. His work has been presented internationally with site-specific projects in the UK, Israel, France, Italy (including the 53rd Venice Biennale), Brazil, Germany, and Greece. In 2016, David founded the MUNDI_Lab (Urban Design Interventions Lab) at the Technion Institute, IL, dealing with public space in the context of surveillance, gentrification, and memory. David is a French and Israeli national based near Florence, Italy, and holds a BFA in Sculpture from Gloucester University, UK, an MSc in Material Sciences from Weizmann Institute of science, Israel, and a PhD in Architecture from Technion.

Dan Farberoff is an interdisciplinary artist and filmmaker, working primarily in mediated physical and digital presence, often in site-specific fashion, both in natural and urban environments. His works incorporate new media, video, photography, interactive technology, installation, performance, and dance. The central subjects touch on issues of consciousness and embodiment, connection to place and presence, drawing on his extensive background and experience in meditation and awareness practice, in dance and embodied practice, and in digital arts practice. He is a Colombian, Swiss, Israeli, and British national based in Berlin and holds an MA in Art & Performance from Dartington College of Arts (2007). His works in the field of digital media and dance, which include collaborations with the England National Ballet, the Richard Alston Dance Company, and world-renowned choreographers, were presented to great acclaim at festivals, including special selection at FIPA, at the London Olympics, and the Shanghai Expo, and screened on major TV networks. Over the past decade, his projects have increasingly focused on social-ecological issues, with an increasing emphasis on developing a deep connection to nature.



[1] The ACAC was initiated and set up in 2016 by curator Hadas Kedar.

[2] Here, we mostly relate to Stavros Stavrides’ notion of public space commoning (Stavros Stavrides, Common Space: The City as Commons (London: Zed Books, 2016); David Behar et al., Commoning as an Instrument of Resistance, to be published).

[3] This view in relation to the work of Common Views, informed by the writings of Bruno Latour, Donna Haraway, Giorgio Agamben, and others, is explored in research by Irit Ben-Moshe, to be published.

[4] This is a reflexive practice form of scholarly activism, the “Situated Solidarities” approach (Paul Routledge and Kate Driscoll Derickson, “Situated Solidarities and the Practice of Scholar-Activism,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 33, no. 3 (2015); Richa Nagar and Susan Geiger, “Reflexivity and Positionality in Feminist Fieldwork Revisited,” in Politics and Practice in Economic Geography, eds. A. Tickell, E. Sheppard, J. Peck, and T. Barnes (London: Sage Press, 2007), 267–278).

[5] See figs. 1 and 7.

[6] We dialogue with Lygia Clark’s notion of mediation object (Eleanor Harper, Restoring Subjectivity and Brazilian Identity: Lygia Clark's Therapeutic Practice (Athens: Ohio University, 2010).

[7] This approach is in dialogue with Paulo Freire’s concept of cultural action (Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2000 (30th anniversary edition)).

[8] Community members of Al Baqi’a began receiving official eviction notices from the authorities shortly after our first meeting there.

[9] Once an official Arad-Masada water pipeline was introduced, the Bedouins abandoned the arduous work of maintaining the cisterns, gradually adjusting to new modes of sourcing water, initially carrying water from taps at the pipeline. This change brought a dramatic ten-fold increase in water consumption, from 20 liters per day to 200 or more liters per day per family group, including livestock.

[10] The Hebrew name for the site, appearing in official maps, is Bor Atin.

[11] This online community continued to interact beyond the specific activities of the project, at times resulting in expressions of great solidarity, at other times descending into conflict, impacted by broader political events (See fig. 13).

[12] For examples of these artworks, see figs. 4, 5, 7, 14, 15, 16, 21, and 29.

[13] Prof. Uriel Safriel, Prof. Daniel Orenstein, and Dr. Lihi Golan.

[14] The original plan for a limited biosphere reserve in Al Baqi’a, created by Sefi Hanegbi and Tomer Kahana, was presented unsuccessfully to the local Bedouin community in 2008. Biosphere reserves, part of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme, aim to achieve a balance between the needs of humans and the environment. There are currently more than 700 such reserves worldwide.

[15] We ourselves see such distinctions between the political and the social-ecological as missing the point.

[16] We developed a series of color palettes for this, relating to the diverse cultural backgrounds of the participants (Bedouin, Russian, Ukrainian, Chilean, Moroccan, etc).

[17] An ancient network of desert ways, which links settlements with water sources, crisscrosses the region. One of these, “Darb el Malachat,” passes through Kuseife, across the territories of different family clans.

[18] See figs. 24 and 25.

[19] These are the biosphere reserves of Schorfheide-Chorin and Spreewald in the state of Brandenburg, in north and south Berlin, respectively.

[20] We have worked with Prof. Katja Arzt, director of the "Biosphere Reserve Management" MA program at the Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development (HNEE), as well as with a number of researchers at the Biosphere Reserves Institute.

[21] Kumzits, from Yiddish, translates literally as “Come! Sit!”

[22] Majelis is the Indonesian term for a gathering or meeting, and a central aspect of the ruangrupa collective’s “lumbung” concept for documenta fifteen.

[23] Kuseife is a good example, where environmental education programs have been set up in four local schools as a follow-up to the Common Views project there.

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Issue 54

documenta fifteen—Aspects of Commoning in Curatorial and Artistic Practices

by Ronald Kolb and Dorothee Richter

by Unchalee Anantawat, Ariane Sutthavong, Lara van Meeteren, Bart Wissink

by Anna L. Tsing, Jennifer Deger, Alder Keleman Saxena and Feifei Zhou

In Conversation with Anastasia Baka, Leilani Lynch, and Anna Wälli

in Conversation with Leilani Lynch and Maria Mumtaz

in Conversation with Sophie Brunner, Marinella-Sofia Gkinko, and Maria Mumtaz

in Conversation with Rosela del Bosque, Olena Iegorova and Veronica Mari

Hajnalka Somogyi, Eszter Lázár, Nikolett Eross, Katalin Székely, Bori Szalai, and Eszter Szakács in Conversation with Anna Konstantinova and Giulia Busetti

in Conversation with Smadar Samson and Giulia Busetti

An Interview with Morten Goll, Trampoline House in Conversation with Nadine Bajek, Thamy Matarozzi, Alejandra Monteverde, and Anna Wälli

In Conversation with Chiara Borgonovo, Rosela del Bosque, Marina Donina, and Lotte Van Ermengem

In Conversation with Marina Donina and Regina Tetens