Jumana Manna. Old Bread (detail). 2021. Ceramics, plastic bags, galvanized metal.

MoMA PS1 will present the first major museum exhibition of Jumana Manna (Palestinian, b. 1987) in the United States. On view from September 22, 2022 to April 17, 2023, Break, Take, Erase, Tally brings together nearly 20 works including two recent films, Wild Relatives (2018) and Foragers (2022), along with a series of new and existing sculptures, charting the artist’s multidisciplinary practice that explores the paradoxical effects of preservation practices in agriculture, science, and the law. Across the works in the exhibition, from sculptures to films, the land and its rhythms are explored as the basis for ways of life that have undergone duress while also resisting, evading, and transforming hegemonic power structures.

Focusing on the land in the face of increasing forms of alienation from it, Manna’s films use a range of narrative methods to examine how land-based practices like farming and foraging are embroiled in and struggle against neoliberal and colonial policies and in turn, climate change. Drawing from specific examples, such as the first withdrawal from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in 2015 in response to the Syrian war—the subject of her film Wild Relatives—Manna underscores the scientific limitations in recovering the loss of biological life, in all of its forms. Additionally, her work visualizes the slow violence of industrial agriculture while asking poignant questions about what kind of future is possible in a precarious present.

In her new film Foragers, which makes its New York premiere in the exhibition, Manna moves between documentary and fiction to chronicle confrontations between Palestinan pickers of the wild growing herbs ‘akkoub and za’atar and the Israeli Nature Protection Authority, which has deemed the plants endangered. The foragers’ refusal and the punishments they face, from large fines and potential jail time, at times takes on an absurdist and comical tone that raises key questions around the politics of extinction namely who determines what gets to live on and how. In both of Manna’s films, plants and seeds are primary subjects, and the relationship between human labor and the land is essential to their narrative structures.

A centerpiece of the exhibition is a large-scale installation of new sculptures, which take inspiration from the fragmented remains of khabyas, traditional and now obsolete structures for grain storage in the Levant. The sculptures are placed in dialogue with the artist’s signature industrial plinth assemblages, which borrow materials found in the urban environment from construction sites to drainage systems. Through these juxtapositions, Manna considers the shift of systems of storage from sources of sustenance and regeneration tied to agricultural life cycles to spaces of accumulation and centralized economies of capital growth. These formal amalgamations of architecture speak to Manna’s ongoing sculptural inquiries into improvised infrastructures in places where infrastructure is built to fail, as well as questions of recursion, materiality, and scale.

Jumana Manna (b. 1987) lives and works in Berlin, Germany. Recent solo exhibitions include Jumana Manna / MATRIX 278, Berkeley Museum of Art, San Francisco; Sketch and Bread, Balade Charlottenburg, Villa Oppenheim, Berlin; Thirty Plumbers in the Belly, M HKA – Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp (all 2021); Wild Relatives, Tensta Kunsthall, Sweden (2020); Jumana Manna, Tabakalera, San Sebastian, Spain (2019); A Small Big Thing, Henie Onstad Museum, Høvikodden (2019), Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin (2018); A Magical Substance Flows Into Me, Mercer Union, Toronto (2017); Wild Relatives, Jeu de Paume’s Satellite 10 program at MABA and CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux, France (2017); A Magical Substance Flows Into Me, Malmö Kunsthall, Sweden (2016) and at Chisenhale Gallery, London (2015); and Menace of Origins, SculptureCenter, New York (2014). She has participated in numerous significant group exhibitions and film festivals, including Toronto Biennial of Art (2022 and 2019); 11th Taipei Biennial (2018); Nordic Pavilion, 57th Venice Biennale (2017); Liverpool Biennial (2016); Marrakech Biennale 6 (2016); Vision du Reel, Lyon (2022), Dokufest Kosovo (2018 and 2022), Open City Film Festival, London (2022), 54th and 56th Vienna International Film Festivals (2016 and 2018); IFFR (2013 and 2017), IDFA (2021 and 2022); 66th and 68th Berlinale (2016 and 2018); and CPH:DOX (2018). Manna’s work is held in public and private collections internationally, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; MCA Chicago; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Carre d’art, Nîmes, France; National Museum of Norway, Oslo; and Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE.

Jumana Manna: Break, Take, Erase, Tally is organized by Ruba Katrib, MoMA PS1 Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs.

Significant support for Jumana Manna: Break, Take, Erase, Tally is provided by The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art.

Generous support is provided by The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art and Lise Stolt-Nielsen.

Special thanks to Hollybush Gardens, London.

The presentation of Jumana Manna’s Middle Ghost (Cache Series) in the 46th Ave Public Plaza is made possible by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

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