The installation Liquid Memory by artist Tchelet Pearl Weisstub (Jerusalem, 1984) is inspired by the mikveh – the Jewish ritual bath – that was rediscovered in the Ashkenazi synagogue when it was converted into the Jewish Historical Museum in the 1980s. The exhibition explores the evolution of the Jewish bathing ritual from natural caves to tiled floors, creating non-linear connections between Amsterdam’s seventeenth-century mikveh and archaeological sites of mikvehs in and around Jerusalem that date back 2000 years.
In Jerusalem, the construction of every new building destroys some relic of the ancient past. The city is therefore constantly faced with the question: what is more important, the past or the present? Archaeology is thus used for nationalist purposes and serves to construct local identities.
In the work Liquid Memory, Weisstub interweaves the past and the present through contradictions. She combines, for example, Neolithic masks from 9000 years ago with current ritual bathing ceremonies of Orthodox Jews. Just as Jerusalem is a city of disparate belief systems, divided into different time zones that exist parallel to one another, this work is made up of layers of images that confront each other.
Lifta – Mei Neftoach, video still, 2018
There are several natural water springs in the vicinity of Jerusalem. Today, they function as recreational places for Palestinians and Israelis, and for some religious men they serve as sites for ritual bathing. Offering the pure joy of cold water on a hot summer’s day, these springs have become an interface between religious and non-religious people, sites of national and ethnic ownership with indigenous and territorial claims.
Tchelet Pearl Weisstub is a graduate of the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. The work for this exhibition was made in collaboration with artist Izek Mizrahi (Jerusalem, 1983).
Special thanks: Stephan Kuderna and The Israel Antiquities Authority.
Ablution, site-specific kenetic sculpture, 2018