Bare Life in Jerusalem's Museum on the Seam

0 Posted by - May 7, 2008 - Blog

Walking into Bare Life in Jerusalem's Museum on the Seam, one is immediately absorbed by the exhibit's thick layers of context and irony. The building, which once functioned as Israel's military outpost on the seam between Israel and Jordan when the city was divided (1948-67), is now a venue for contemporary socio-political art. Among the human rights-themed artworks are windows backed by sliding steel doors originally used for armed lookouts.

Bare Life provides the space to reflect on the tension in this ideologically and religiously divided city, and the normalization of its militarization. Thoughts of Apartheid might enter viewers' minds when they approach the exhibit's first installation: the South African artist Kendell Geers's Time of the Harvest constructed with shelves filled with Belgian police riot helmets. From the surveillance works of Sophie Calle to psychologically disturbing photos by Paul McCarthy and absurdist films of Samual Beckett, the museum's curator has woven together the works of 42 diverse international artists. The selected pieces incite the viewer to examine infringements on civil liberties and human rights, the cultural effects of such violations, and the eventual threat of violence and paranoia becoming status quo.

While there I saw Orthodox Jews and Muslim women in hijab meditating on the same works and was inspired to linger even longer to absorb the whole of the experience. The show is open until June. If you miss it, their next exhibit, Heartquake, looks like it will provide an equally intense critique of global and local conflict. To deepen the context of Bare Life, visit the nearby Israeli Occupation Wall dividing the Holy Land or the Western Wall, where you'll often witness soldiers slinging guns on their backs before they begin to pray.

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