Banksy's "Walled-Off Hotel" at the Palestine Wall
Banksy's experimental "Walled-Off Hotel", with a self-proclaimed "worst view in the world" overlooking the wall separating Palestine and Israel, has just opened. From The Guardian article:
From the disconcertingly lavish presidential suite where water splashes from a bullet-strafed watertank into the hot tub, to the bunk-beds in the budget room scavenged from an abandoned army barracks, the hotel is playful and strongly political.
All the rooms look out on to the concrete slabs of the wall and some have views over it to pill boxes and an Israeli settlement – illegal under international law – on the hillside beyond.
“Walls are hot right now, but I was into them long before [Donald] Trump made it cool,” said Banksy in a statement. The artist, who fiercely guards his anonymity, first came to Bethlehem more than a decade ago, leaving a series of paintings on the barrier that have become a tourist destination in their own right.
Since then, the town’s pilgrim and sightseeing-based economy has been ravaged by ever-tighter Israeli controls on travel between Israel and the Palestinian territories, so the new hotel is expected to provide a welcome boost in jobs and visitor numbers.
A bust wreathed in clouds of gas from a tear gas canister. Photograph: Quique Kierszenbaum for the Guardian
Banksy’s reputation is likely to keep all rooms fully booked, but he wants guests to leave with more than just a selfie. “(It’s) a three-storey cure for fanaticism, with limited car parking,” he added in the statement.
The hotel opens to guests on 20 March, with bookings via the website. The team hope Israelis, who rarely see the barrier wall up close or visit Palestinian towns, will be among the guests, even though visiting means breaking the law.
“I would like to invite everyone to come here, invite Israeli civilians to come visit us here,” said manager Wisam Salsaa. “We want them to learn more about us, because when they know us it will break down the stereotypes and things will change.”
Israelis are banned from visiting Bethlehem and its famous sites. And although Banksy has chosen a site officially under Israeli military control – meaning it is legal for Israelis to stay there – all the roads to reach it involve an illegal journey through Palestinian-controlled territory.
The last we heard of anyone trying to fuse travel/tourism with radical art was the immersive theatre company Punchdrunk, who announced they would soon launch Punchdrunk Travel in 2015 - no sign of it as yet.
Yet it's the idea of turning an abandoned or underused building into a working service, that's also a statement or reimagining of a locally or globally urgent issue, which is worth noting here. Any examples of similar practice you know? Please mail us.