My aesthetic peace plan for the Middle East described in this blog anticipated the historic event of the signing of the Abraham Accord between Israel and United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on the White House lawn. In honor of this paradigm shift, I launched cyberangels of peace on virtual flights from Israel Museum to Louvre Abu Dhabi that are described in my blog .
I first conceptualized developing an aesthetic peace between Israel and the surrounding Arab nations when I was research fellow at MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies in the summer of 1980, taking a break from heading a college in Israel’s Negev desert and teaching at Bar-Ilan University. Studying the resources that became available to me at MIT’s Aga Khan Program in Islamic Architecture, I recognized that aesthetic values derived from Islamic art could lead to a perceptual shift in which Muslims see Israel as a blessing expressing Allah’s will rather than as an alien presence in the midst of the Islamic world.
I created I.D.E.A.: International Desert Earth Archives, a pre-digital participatory artwork that invited the collaboration of people from the 44 countries on Planet Earth that have deserts. My artwork was inspired by the commentary on the Biblical book of Genesis that Adam was formed from earth collected from countries worldwide so that no one nation could claim to be the sole descendent from Adam.
I sent a letter (in the days before e-mails) from the International Desert Earth Archives on the letterhead of Massachusetts Institute of Technology to the each of the embassies in Washington of countries with deserts. My letter, addressed to the ambassador, invited his country to participate in the International Desert Earth Archives by sending me a sample of desert earth, a photograph of the collection site, and a map marking the site.
My artwork presented the photographs, maps, earth samples, the containers in which the earth was sent, and documentation of the political process that revealed the great difficulty government bureaucracies have in figuring out whose role it is to collect earth. I first exhibited I.D.E.A at the dedication of a new art center building on the campus of my college in Israel’s desert mountains.
It was shown in 1988 in the Golem! exhibition at the Jewish Museum in New York and in my 2004 solo exhibition Cyberangels: Aesthetic Peace Plan for the Middle East at the Jewish Museum in Prague that forms the core is this Aesthetic Peace blog.
On the bottom of the image above from my exhibition, is a map of the Islamic lands from Morocco to Pakistan showing a tiny map of Israel between them. If the Islamic world was the size of a football stadium, Israel would be ten-times smaller than a football in the middle of the field. A small cyberangel is shown emerging from the top of the green stripe.
On the right side in the submission of Kuwait with the desert earth in a cloth sack with Arabic works of explanation written on it. The text is titled "An Aesthetic Peace." The left side is from Botswana that sent the earth in a 35mm. film canister.