|JERUSALEM LIVES (TAHYA ALQUDS)
This research part of the exhibition metaphorically represents how the roots of globalisation take shape in the city of Jerusalem, only to fail miserably. How does this quintessential universal city, home to the three world religions, become forsaken and lifeless? The Israeli occupation, with its systematic policies of control, exclusion and annexation, is annihilating the very fabric of global, diverse and lively Jerusalem. The Palestinian community living in the city struggles to salvage their basic rights, while the world not only turns a blind eye but accepts the injustices inflicted upon Palestinians in Jerusalem without question. To understand this failing militarised version of Jerusalem is to also understand the failings of other major cities such as Paris, London or New York, where segregation, security and surveillance stifle the diversity of their urban and social fabrics, becoming the norms of a new controlled global order.
The central exhibition will be divided into five sections that study the phenomena of globalisation as applied to Jerusalem, from an economic, political, ideological and cultural standpoint. It highlights the collective ways people have resisted this hegemonic order of depriving them of their rights and rendering the city bereft of life. The focus will be on demonstrating the work of civic institutions in Jerusalem that have adopted a long-term approach of perseverance and resistance.
Additionally, the work of various pioneering artists, both established and contemporary, will present an avant-garde perspective that shows how they have identified the most urgent issues vis-à-vis Jerusalem.
|Culture: Popular Culture, Media and Image Making of the City
In this section of the exhibition, the focus is on how Jerusalem (Al Quds) has been portrayed and imagined visually and culturally in the past century. As with any other global city, images that stand for the city of Jerusalem are produced and circulated ad infinitum in the media. The Dome of the Rock has become an emblem representing the city and is reproduced in a plethora of forms: logos, billboards, tourist merchandise, shop signs, ephemera, etc. The names Jerusalem or Al Aqsa can be found adorning many shops, streets, roads, and even other cities, all over the world. In Palestinian and world cinema, Jerusalem has been endlessly filmed, documented and imagined. Printed matter such as posters and stamps ensure that Al Quds and its famous symbols are widely circulated. This section is also a celebration of literature and knowledge-making about the city and features a selection of books, including the Al Budeiri Library that is represented here. Most importantly, artists also present a nuanced and critical voice, proving that Jerusalem is not just a distant icon but is made up of the lives of people.
|Politics and Environment: Colonialism, Mapping and Strategies of Control
In this section, the focus narrows to the Israeli policies of colonisation and control implemented on Jerusalem since its occupation, which stifle the lives of Palestinians in the city. How does the dream of a Jerusalem as global and free transform into a gated and restricted city? Commissioned infographic posters and animated videos by graphic designer Dennis Sobeh give extensive information and statistics about checkpoints, house demolitions, residence revocations, and other plights that demonstrate the ongoing enforced Israeli annexation of the city. The neighbourhood of Silwan suffers continually from takeover plots by Israeli settlers. Checkpoints, such as the infamous Qalandia checkpoint, bar every entrance to the city.
Artists Rula Halawani and Simone Bitton recorded the expansion of the Wall, in photo and film, when it was barely a visible subject in the media. Mona Hatoum created the soap installation Present Tense, with its representation of the dwindling map of Palestine post-Oslo agreement, as early as 1996 during a residency in Jerusalem. Thirty years after his assassination, Naji al-Ali’s caricatures continue to be revered and ring prophetically true; on display here are 14 drawings he made in the 1980s which all tackle Jerusalem. Towards the end of this section, commissioned artist Ahed Izhiman has created a panoramic, stitched photograph investigating the “ring of settlements” that encircle Jerusalem, slowly cutting it off. This section also highlights the resistance mechanisms of the work of some institutions and collectives, such as the Silwan Club, the African Quarter and Grassroots Jerusalem.
|Economy: The Military-Industrial Complex
Israel has created an economy that it exports globally: the security and surveillance systems it has developed for its militarised procedures, and which it manufactures in order to control Palestinian cities, especially Jerusalem. This is nothing less than an industry, with US.5 billion in revenue, as is pointed out in the latest infographs on display. These systems are being normalised and exported worldwide. Many of the trials and tests they require are carried out on Palestinians within the parameters of the city of Jerusalem. In the meantime, tourism is being stifled. The Old City’s shops and bazaars are not bustling with life as they should. Shop owners have to pay a heavy Israeli taxation known as “arnuna” and many are forced out, so a vibrant healthy Palestinian economy is not allowed to prosper. The Mumbai-based artist collective CAMP show a film they have created using a surveillance camera, referencing the “MABAT 2000” – the surveillance system surrounding the Old City that targets Palestinians. Bisan Abu Eisheh’s installation of videos depict the reality shops in Jerusalem face today. A website is also on display that illustrates a new trend being promoted for tourists to Israel, where the tourists can come to bootcamps and train how to “combat terrorism”. These daunting realities being faced by the city of Jerusalem and its people are a direct result of the continued Israeli occupation and its mechanisms of control.
|Ideology: Between the Sacred and the Living
Jerusalem is the birthplace of all three monotheistic religions, with billions of followers all over the world. Pilgrims have historically descended onto the city, as is evident in the Christian, Jewish and Muslim certificates that are on display here which date back to the 18th century. The church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the most important churches in Christianity, is as revered as it is forsaken. A rare collectable, one of only 30 carved wood and mother-of-pearl models of the church from the 18th century is on display. Yet the numbers of visitors to the 4th century Holy Sepulchre do not match the 25 million that visit the basilica of the Sacré-Coeur in Paris, a church that is only a little over 100 years old. In the meantime, Israel is planning to fully annex Jerusalem and announce it as the capital of the Jewish State. The danger of this rhetoric denies the multiplicity of the city and poses a direct threat to the Palestinians living there. This policy of judaisation is carried out unabashedly. On display here is a video by an Israeli settler organisation that talks about the Arab and Palestinian demographic threat to the city and how it needs to be curtailed. Such colonial expansion is evident in the neighbourhood of Silwan, where eviction orders on Palestinian houses make way for the Zionist plan to build the Holy Basin surrounding the Old City. Yet recent events pertaining to the closure of the Al-Aqsa compound by the Israeli authorities, which resulted in mass prayers and sit-ins, demonstrate how Palestinians continue to resist in the face of this injustice.
|Culture: Jerusalem Imagined
The final section of the central exhibition is dedicated to showing a selection of works by artists who have dealt poetically with Jerusalem, and celebrated the life of the city and its people in the face of its unbearable conditions. In abstraction, they have found refuge to dream a different reality for Jerusalem, to imagine it free, open and more colourful. The works of veteran artists Kamal Boullata, Samia Halaby and Samir Salameh, to name a few, depict Jerusalem as a haven of nature and colour, unobstructed and owned by the Palestinian imaginary. Presented here is a selection of ten actions performed by artist Emily Jacir, and dedicated to the people of Jerusalem, excerpted from her seminal artwork Where We Come From (2001–03). Jerusalem-born artist Vladimir Tamari, who recently passed away, is commemorated with a vibrant painting and his film Al Quds that documents the life of the city and its people prior to and since its seizure in 1967. In a bid to continue to demonstrate the actual lives that make the bedrock of Jerusalem, the section ends in the Glass Gallery with the results of the Palestinian Museum’s open call, in which people were asked to send in their personal photos in front of the Dome of the Rock or Damascus Gate.
The viewer is invited to wander through the gardens of the Museum, where in the spirit of this artistic legacy, 18 artists have been invited to create various artworks that speak to the idea of Jerusalem. The result is an array of monumental sculptures and installations that mimic nature and the land, while speaking to rootedness, belonging and openness.