Amidst a winter day, just meters from the Shivtei Yisrael train stop in Jerusalem, The Museum on the Seam was stands tall and proud under a sunny sky. It’s old stone walls make it look graceful and immanent all at the same time. The Museum itself has a lavish history, having been built in the early 1900’s, it has even been a bunker at some point, and inside the Museum to this day you can still see the small rectangular metal bunker widows intact on it’s second floor.
This Museum on the Seam prides itself on offering socio-political contemporary art, and each carefully selected piece of art pushes and prods at audiences, with all the punch and spice it can muster.
Since May 2017, the exhibition Thou Shalt Not has been running—it grapples with concepts such as faith and Jewish law, exposing it’s viewers to works that might offer a different commentary on contemporary ideas which we are amidst in these times of constant change. The encompassing aspects of both religiosity and secularism are present, which is important in Jerusalem. Renewed narratives lend a detailed yet overarching view on contemporary art within Jewish symbolism.
One of the most profound pieces I found when I went to this exhibit was a video piece titled Inferno by artist Yael Bartana, an artist who is known to question the Israeli-Jewish identity of Israel. In Bartana’s short film, she recreated a ‘third temple’, only it is set in modern day times in Brazil. The idea for the film began with an exchange program of Israeli and Brazilian artists whos chose to focus on new religious movements that had been developing in Brazil.
The film’s opening is that of men, women and children dressed in white, making their way to the temple. Some children ride skateboards, everyone smiles as they tread through the slums on their way to the temple, bringing livestock and baskets filled with fruits, the women have flowers adorning their hair. This truly is a mix of old traditions juxtaposed with modern life. The sound of shofars can be heard in the background and holy artifacts such as the Menorah are seen being helicoptered towards the temple.
The title Inferno itself suggest fire, thus—to little suprise—towards the end of the film, the temple sets fire. Flames lick every crevice and corner, glass windows shatter, pillars plummet to their defeat, and everyone runs out screaming with panic in their eyes. It is a cerebral experience to watch on screen—almost surreal.
In her own words, Bartana states “It was clear to me that this attempt to create a utopian reality carries its own destruction within itself. A look at history suffices to see where utopian movements lead to.”
About the author: Born and raised in Silver Spring, MD, Reena Baras moved to Jerusalem in 2015. Reena studied for her BA in early childhood and special education from Montgomery College in Maryland and works as a resource teacher, swim instructor, and freelance artist. In the fall, Reena plans to complete her BA in Liberal Arts at Tel Aviv University.Reena is a contributing journalist for CAIJ.co.