Excavating The Contemporary

21 November 2015 until 26 June 2016

Excavating The Contemporary is a unique presentation showcasing contemporary artists who explore the relationship between human traditions and natural materials through sculptures, photographs, videos and works in mixed media. In these modern times characterised by advanced technologies, this display challenges us to focus on the soul of the earth. The artists use resources such as limestone, adobe, oil, wood and rock to enforce the idea of materiality.

Plan your visit 

Michal Helfman, Just Be Good to Me, 2007, video, 2:24 min, THE EKARD COLLECTION

The presentation takes place at the Jewish Historical Museum from 21 November 2015 to 26 June 2016. The fourteen works by international artists have been chosen from THE EKARD COLLECTION. The presentation can be seen in the Art Gallery and in the spaces of the former seventeenth-century mikveh (ritual bath). This is the first time that all the spaces of the mikveh will be accessible to the public.

The Art Gallery contains works in which four artists use stone as their point of departure: a hollow white limestone sculpture by Anish Kapoor, a series of photographs by Matthew Day Jackson, an installation by Otobong Nkanga and a video by Michal Helfman.


Excavating The Contemporary 2015/2016 Joods Historisch Museum Excavating The Contemporary 2015/2016 Joods Historisch Museum met werken van Anish Kapoor Otobong Nkanga Michal Helfman
Excavating The Contemporary 2015/2016 ook in het Mikwe van het Joods Historisch Museum Excavating The Contemporary 2015/2016 een presentatie van Sigalit Landau in het Mikwe van het Joods Historisch Museum

The space of the former mikveh contains several works relating to water. In Jewish tradition submersion in the mikveh is a ritual for attaining spiritual purification. In the video work Under the Dead Sea by Sigalit Landau, the human body enters into a relationship with the landscape. The artist connects the personal with the global and stimulates the viewer with historical, cultural and geographical meanings and associations. The Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth where the water is so salty that life is impossible, plays an important role in her work.

Aslan Gaisumov's installation comprises six glass water jars and an excavated example from his native Chechnya, where traditionally the water jar's form denoted the social status of the women who carried them. In very different ways each of the artworks in the presentation deals with the spiritual value that we attach to natural materials. The mikveh served as a ritual bath from c.1671 to c.1823 and was rediscovered during excavations in 1987 when the former synagogue complex was transformed into a museum.

This presentation includes works by Anish Kapoor, Matthew Day Jackson, Sigalit Landau, Otobong Nkanga, Michal Helfman, Aslan Gaisumov, N. Dash, Andy Goldsworthy, Virginia Overton, David Nash, Per Barclay and Yael Bartana. 

Inferno, 2014 Inferno, 2014

A part of the exhibition is the video Inferno by artist Yael Bartana (Israel, 1970). This film (22 min) is about the destruction of the replica of the first Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, which was recently built by the leader of the Pentecostal movement in Brazil, where the film was shot. In her film Bartana shows the temple in Brazil being destroyed in a Hollywood-like manner, blurring the distinctions between fact and fiction, history and prophecy. Inferno confronts the audience with a fusion of place, history and religion.

Yael Bartana
Inferno, 2014
Single channel DCP video
22 min.
Courtesy Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam; Petzel Gallery, New York; Sommer
Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv

The film will be screened from 2 February to 11 March 2016 every Tuesday and Friday at noon, 2 pm and 4 pm in the Auditorium.

Deze site is ook beschikbaar in het Nederlands