This three month residency in Israel, Palestine and the Occupied Territories was hosted by the Centre for Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv in 2010-2011. It explored the relationship between land and the imagination, with a particular focus on aligning the material properties of water and light with dynamics of thinking and perceiving. Explorations involved working with contemporary architecture, ruins, bodies of water in urban and landscape settings, and the infrastructure around water in the region. The physical properties of these sites was literally and metaphorically charged, embodying social attitudes and cultural politics, historical events and individual lives.
Works created during the residency fed into a number of events, including an exhibition at an historic building in the Musrara quarter of Jerusalem, for the international festival Mix in 2011.
A square of light, a tension between a closed circuit and a universal medium, geometry and glow. The atmosphere shifts as night falls., from a subtle radiation on the great, worn stones that form the floor of the space, to an intense quadrangle of light.
The handmade glass panes that are held together with lead strips to form windows, looking out over Jerusalem, are filled one by one with a digital blue vinyl. This marks the extremes of water levels across the region. A monitor fills and empties with a cycle of digital blue.
A long geometric lightbox is split in two to allow the viewer in. One one side, a transparent, backlit image of Solomons Pools in Bethlehem, on the other Sultans Pool in Jerusalem. The flow of water once ran between the two, now the pools stand derelict and disconnected. The images of the pools are altered, filled with blue, to appear full of water again. The viewer’s body and sightline connects the two.
The slabs of stone that form the floor embody the movement of countless passages in and out of the space, they are a landscape, messengers of time.
I had visited Israel in 2002 to present Archaeology of the Present in the Blurrr Biennial of Performance Art, organised by the CCA and curated by Sergio Edelsztein. I made contact at that time with a number of artists and curators who shared an interest in the performance of identity and place. I returned in 2010 to present a work from my Warpoem series at the Barbur Gallery in Jerusalem. I set up the residency with CCA based on these exchanges, and invited the Australian artist James Geurts to participate in the project. My main focus was on the use of time-based practices, performative and textual processes to create propositions connecting the geography and the body, topographies and philosophies, encountering and recollecting.
The topography of the region presents many dramatic features, including the lowest place on Earth, some 1369 feet or 417.5 meters below sea level, at the Dead Sea, between Israel and Jordan. It is the birthplace of religions that have influenced the shape of thinking and cultural practices throughout the world. It has been settled by, and is the home of, many ancient tribes and peoples. Evidence, and a sense, of various states of belonging with the land are present in: palimpsests, ruins, monuments and hybrid forms. It is a place of mythic charge and political turmoil.
The residency began with a series of dérives on foot, by road, and on public transport, following advice, research and a sense of curiosity. It became clear that the presence and the absence of water is one of the features that defines the area geographically and which most influences it culturally. The distinct qualities of light created by the arid landscape and its elevation are also remarkable. Works were created moving from North to South, following the Jordan River, a feature that defines the region historically as it does in the present. This research sought to active symbolic associations, through images, actions, assemblages and installations that addressed the interplay of cultural time and geographic time, human forces and elemental dynamics.