The Whitechapel Gallery presents the first UK survey of artist Emily Jacir this autumn. Bringing together almost two decades of sculpture, film, drawings, large-scale installations and photography, Emily Jacir: Europa focuses on Jacir’s dialogue with Europe, Italy and the Mediterranean in particular.

Known for her poignant works of art that are as poetic as they are political and biographical, Emily Jacir explores various histories of migration, resistance and exchange. Books, libraries, etymology and the act of translation are also key themes in many of her works.

A highlight of the Whitechapel Gallery show is the UK premiere of Material for a film (2004-), winner of a Golden Lion at the 2007 Venice Biennale. This large-scale, immersive installation is based on the life of Palestinian writer Wael Zuaiter who was assassinated near his home in Rome, Italy, by Israeli Mossad agents in 1972. Jacir reimagines chapters of Zuaiter’s life through materials unearthed by the artist including family photographs, correspondence and documents relating to his assassination. Jacir’s own photographs, writings, sound works and interviews she conducted form the central component of the project and present her journey to find Zuaiter through the traces he left behind. In bringing together these materials on Zuaiter’s life and her own research, the artist draws attention to the efforts of the intellectuals who endeavoured to bring international attention to the Palestinian cause.

Jacir’s atmospheric short film Lydda Airport (2009) is set in the mid – late 1930s and is inspired by a story told to the artist by Salim Tamari whose father recounted waiting at the airport (now known as Ben Gurion) to greet and welcome aviator Amelia Earhart who never arrived. It also tells the tale of ‘Hannibal’, an Imperial Airways plane that later vanished without a trace while flying over the Gulf of Oman en route from Jask, Iran to Sharjah, UAE on March 1, 1940. Jacir herself appears in the work, which is informed by personal accounts and historic records.

stazione (2008-2009) was a public intervention for Palestine c/o Venice, Palestine’s participation in the 2009 Venice Biennale. Jacir translated the names of each vaporetto station along Route 1 on the Grand Canal into Arabic, and proposed to place them alongside the existing Italian signs to create a bilingual transportation route through the city. The ambition of the work was to put the water bus stop stations in direct dialogue with the surrounding architecture, linking elements of Venice’s shared heritage with the Arab world. The project was never realised as it was cancelled by the Venetian authorities, however, the photographs and plans are presented in this exhibition.

Presented in a dedicated gallery is the video installation ENTRY DENIED (a concert in Jerusalem) (2003). Austrian nationals Marwan Abado, Franz Hautzinger and Peter Rosmanith were due to perform concerts in East Jerusalem and Bethlehem in July 2002. However, the musicians were unable to go ahead with the concerts after Marwan Abado, who is of Palestinian origin, was denied entry at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport for ‘security reasons’. Jacir invited the musicians to perform the concert exactly as it was to have taken place but in an empty theatre in Vienna.

Other works on show include 6 June 1967 (1998); Change/Exchange (1998); Untitled (June) (1998); from Paris to Riyadh (drawings for my mother) – Novembre 1977 (1998 – 2001); linz diary (2003); Nothing Will Happen (eight normal Saturdays in Linz), (2003); embrace (2005); ex libris (2010-2012) and Tal al Zaatar project (2014).