by Gaia Regoli
The unique Museum on the Seam has just opened a really special exhibition, named Jerusalem Self Portrait. Twenty photographers wandered around the city of Jerusalem to capture its religious and cultural peculiarities. “Jerusalem is a city of individuals, of sections” says Raphie Etgar, Chief Curator and Artistic Director of the museum. Thanks to the contributions of the Jerusalem Foundation’s Italian donors, the exhibition was made possible and, again thanks to an additional gift from the Foundation, the museum has published a catalogue in three languages, i.e. Hebrew, Arabic and English, for the first time.
If, on the one hand, Jerusalem is a city characterized by a wide variety of people and beliefs, on the other hand, everyone focuses on themselves and on their own realities. This idea is spread around the whole exhibition. While keeping this in mind, we observe the video installation Jerusalemites by Efrat Shvily which portrays single persons personally reacting to their staying in Jerusalem, for example smiling or just acting distracted in front of the camera. In the exhibition, this self-love of the inhabitants is constantly surrounded by noise, voices and melodies from several videos, that provide the viewer with this chaotic set of contrasts between individuals and beliefs.
Clothes also play a central role in this city, as it is shown in the photography Women in Black and White. The artist Sigal Adelman photographed six secular women twice: first without a hat and then with a hat. The transformation is incredible: as soon as these same women wear a hat, for the population, they turn into religious women. Another interesting piece of clothing is the Hijab, the typical veil worn by Arab women, which, as shown in Jerusalem 2.0 by Mark Bennington, has nowadays become a trend. The Hijab, in fact, has recently become something fashionable that can be bought in shops such as Zara and Topshop.
FROM DAMASCUS GATE TO THE MAHANEH YEHUDA
Furthermore, some artists decided to focus on some specific locations in the city. For instance, the video by Faiz Abu Rmeleh portrays people standing in front of Damascus gate, a place often seen as dangerous as well as a bridge between the new and the old city. Another example is the piece The Hidden Face of the Holy Sepulcher, which reveals the several debates and fights that happen inside the famous church contended among Catholics and Greeks, Orthodox and Copts, Assyrians, Latins, Armenians and Franciscans. Other works, such as As If There’s No Tomorrow by Shlomo Christopher Pozner, show how the new generations are reacting to these intense cultural and religious struggles by using nightlife as a source of escapism. One main centre of this nightlife is the Mahaneh Yehuda market, which acts as Dr. Jekyll during the day, selling tasty bread, sweets, fruits and vegetables, and becomes Mr. Hyde at night, revealing the previously hidden graffiti on its shutters.
INTO THE DARK
Moving on, the basement of the museum displays what for me is probably the most impressive and disturbing work of the entire exhibition. I am referring to Tish by Dov Korlinski, a video showing a Haredi Purim celebration taking place around the chief Rabbi’s table with hundreds of men and children participating, singing, dancing and screaming. Being this art piece located in the underground of the museum, this implies that this kind of celebrations are not visible in the streets of Jerusalem, or better, they are not exposed to the daily light and, of course, not to everyone, let alone a naïve tourist would never get to find out about them.
What is also unknown is that every morning, in front of the museum, Arab men wake up at four in the morning and go in the streets, waiting for someone who may give them a job. They wait for a car to pick them up. Not everybody will be hired and will therefore go back home to return the next day and try once again.
Jerusalem Self Portrait will be open from Mondays to Fridays. For additional information, visit the website www.mots.org.il.
A hymn to the city of Jerusalem – to its strengths and weaknesses.
A rare exhibition which undoubtedly gives an access to those who are interested in understanding the complexity and diversity of the city of Jerusalem nowadays.