Jumana Manna is a Palestinian artist who works with film and sculpture to explore the paradoxical effects of preservation practices in agriculture, science, and the law. Her first major museum exhibition in the United States, Break, Take, Erase, Tally, is on view at MoMA PS1 from September 22, 2022 to April 17, 2023.

The exhibition brings together nearly 20 works, including two recent films, Wild Relatives (2018) and Foragers (2022), along with a series of new and existing sculptures. The works in the exhibition examine how land-based practices like farming and foraging are embroiled in and struggle against neoliberal and colonial policies and climate change. Manna also questions the scientific limitations in recovering the loss of biological life and the slow violence of industrial agriculture.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is Wild Relatives, a film that follows the journey of seeds from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway to Lebanon. In 2015, the vault made its first withdrawal when researchers in Aleppo, Syria requested seeds that they had previously deposited. The film juxtaposes the cold and sterile environment of the vault with the warm and fertile landscapes of Lebanon, where farmers cultivate the seeds and face their own challenges.

The exhibition also features a series of sculptures that draw from different forms of preservation and ruination. For example, the Cache Series (2018–ongoing) consists of ceramic sculptures that resemble khabya, traditional grain storage structures in rural houses across the Levant. Manna coats the sculptures with tadelakt, a lime-plaster technique unique to Morocco, and places them on steel grates that evoke industrial and institutional architectures of archiving.

Another sculpture series is Old Bread International (2022), which mimics a common sight in cities and towns across the Mediterranean: uneaten bread laid out as an offering to be taken or consumed by unknown receivers. The bread is made of ceramic and placed on plastic bags and newspapers. The installation reflects on the web of guilt and generosity that defines this practice, which emerges alongside the excesses of urban life and constitutes a form of informal recycling.

Break, Take, Erase, Tally is curated by Ruba Katrib, Curator at MoMA PS1. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with essays by Katrib, Rana Issa, Eyal Weizman, and Vivian Ziherl.

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