Local Industries at Dubai Design Week

Mass Imperfections’ by Palestinian architects Elias and Yousef Anastas is composed of several hand-made olive wood modules assembled into a structure that bears resemblance to both a piece of traditional Palestinian embroidery from a village in the hills of Judea and to a prop from the set of a science-fiction film from the 1970.

Mock-up of the structure

In order to elaborate ‘Mass Imperfections’, the brothers worked with Luay Nassrallah, an artisan from Beit Jala, who uses a machine to cut the olive wood. In Palestine, the souvenir industry is a sprawling moneymaking machine. Pilgrims are brought into cities such as Bethlehem, and pressured into buying ‘authentic’ or ‘holy’ olive wood trinkets that are often mass-produced elsewhere and have little to do with Palestine.


This industry relies on the possibility of mass-producing cheaply and selling objects that can be presented as local products. If they were produced in a holy land, it follows that these products themselves are, indeed, holy. Pilgrims flock to souvenir shops searching for a transcendence that they are made to believe is located in the mass-produced olive wood crosses or rosaries. The actual spirituality that is to be found in Palestine – whether Muslim, Christian or otherwise – is not visible in souvenir shops.

But ‘Mass Imperfections’ does not fetishize arts and crafts. It is not simply a critique of mass production. It is a proposal: it suggests new ways to blend the human and the machine. The olive wood structure is a proposal for creative transhumanism firmly rooted in Palestinian politics of heritage and tourism. Whether it is man, machine, or a bit of both, who made the olive wood elements of the structure is not necessarily clear, as can be seen in the videos accompanying the piece.

Abdelmonem bin Eisa Alserkal & Cyril Zammit visiting the Palestinian Pavilion at Abwab, Dubai Design Week

‘Mass Imperfections’ reintroduces human error as a fundamental element of creativity. Mass production considers errors as something that should be rooted out progressively. On the other hand, it is because human production – as opposed to mass production –is defined by its unreliability that it can create surprise and awe.

Errors are embedded in human production. They are not a pathology that needs to progressively disappear. The structure takes its cues from computer art. The glitch is at the basis of its creative process: temporary malfunctions of machines trigger unheard of ways of seeing reality. The structure, in fact, is a constellation of glitches. It celebrates humanity in its mass imperfections. It should stand as a reminder of what Palestine has to offer to the world: an imperfect, yet electrifying, blend of traditionalism and sci-fi dreams.

By Karim Kattan

Lana- photo by Aqib Anwar
Lana – photo by Aqib Anwar