Jericho – beyond the celestial and terrestrial, 4th Edition of Cities Exhibition, Birzeit University Museum, 2012 -2013
Founded by Vera Tamari, the original idea behind Cities Exhibition was to draw attention to a variety of relationships between people, place and time, highlighting the cadences and uniqueness of each Palestinian city through the narrative of time. Cities Exhibition, which will take place at Birzeit University Museum, tries to look beyond the typical representations of nostalgia and folklore in Palestine, juxtaposing past and contemporary visual and cultural evidence, not only to affirm the uniqueness of cities such as Jericho, but also to challenge issues of memory, identity and change.
Yazid Anani, the curator of this year's edition of Cities Exhibition, re-explores this concept in the city of Jericho by using an unconventional curatorial approach: in his call for entries, the curator invited artists from all over the world to explore Jericho via a series of 'trails' in an attempt to reestablish the lost connection between man and the cosmos through interventions, research and art practice, with exploration as a key theme. Anani suggested in his proposal three designated phases: research and site investigation; public intervention in Jericho and its landscape; and exhibition as a documentation of the whole experience. Artists were invited to attempt to restore links between the metaphoric nature of the land of Jericho, crossing the city by way of five distinct 'trails', designated as follows: 'Land' – everything related to terrain and what lies beneath it (example: geology, seismology); 'Humanity' – any human intervention that changed the terrain (example: agriculture, architecture, urbanity); 'Wildlife' – every living thing other than humans (example: botany, flora, bacteria); 'Cosmos' – the umbrella above the terrain (example: constellations, astrology, mythology); and 'contemporaneity' – the moment in the present time that cuts through all the different aforementioned levels and connects them, in a reflection on our modernity, culture and identity.
Five artists were selected from 57 entries: Iyad Issa will explore 'contemporaneity', Shuruq Harb 'cosmos', Samah Hijawi 'land', Susanne Bosch 'humanity' and Sarah Beddington 'wildlife'.
British artist Sarah Beddington takes the theme of bird migration in Palestine to explore the natural and cultural landscape around Jericho. Working together with an environmentalist and ornithologist, Beddington will initiate a journey through the landscape close to the city. The Birds, an ancient Greek play by Aristophanes, will be used as a poetic lens through which to contemplate the relationship between the Earth, sky, time and space, while drawing attention to endangered species, biodiversity and the natural environment, both past and present.
German artist Susanne Bosch proposes examining Jericho's landscape together with a 'geomancer', someone who analyses the so-called 'earth energies' that ebb and flow throughout a landscape, influencing health and wealth, home, garden and office alike. Geomancy (a New Age practice of earth-based divination) aims to work with these energies to enhance our relationship with spirit and place. Together with the geomancer, Bosch will traverse the landscape, covering themes of migration and escape, water, political activism and spirituality in relation to this location.
Jordan-based Samah Hijawi's proposal, meanwhile, investigates the geological possibility of earthquakes along the Great Rift Valley, which runs from Mozambique all the way through the Red Sea up as far as Syria. The artist will examine the aftermath of a fictitious earthquake in which the whole of Palestine disappears under the sea, and asks the question: What would it mean to the region if Palestine no longer existed?
Palestinian artist Iyad Issa will examine the different speeds at which the human and other forms of wildlife exist, reside, move, and interact within the landscape of Jericho. The project explores the different temporalities that can exist in the same territory and that occupy different spaces in Jericho in the present and in the past.
Finally, Ramallah-based Shuruq Harb is interested in myth and religion as potent mediums of story-telling built around characters and objects, and her project investigates the notion of performance through myth, theology and religion in Jericho's landscape. This performance would be built around a fictional character whose story is told via existing and made-up artifacts, objects and personal accounts.
September 29th, 2012: Launch of the research-based Notebook, Jericho – beyond the celestial and terrestrial
October 6th, 2012: Interventions of the five Trails in Jericho
January 12th, 2013: Exhibition and Seminar Opening