Curator Timna Seligman | The Israeli Museum. Jerusalem, Israel 2015
For five years Nira Pereg filmed the Holy Sepulchre, Christianity’s holiest site. In The Right To Clean she characteristically evades the obvious and the familiar, letting her sensitive, poetic gaze find unusual angles and capturing details overlooked by the public. The name of the exhibition alludes to the compound’s complex division between the various Christian denominations, the result of centuries of arbitrary acts, small arguments, and international wars. Today, no violation of the status quo is allowed – not even where the right to clean the site is concerned.
Serving almost as a test-case of the Old City as a whole, these works reveal the individual rituals of visitors to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – among the holiest of Christian sites. Pereg focuses not on Mass or the Holy Fire Ceremony, but rather on private, less noticeable ceremonies, depicting the choreography created by the movements of the church workers, pilgrims, and tourists who fill the church each day, documenting their repetitive actions and small rituals. Even the nun who cleans the holy places with a cloth, cleaning fluids, broom, and dustpan is performing a ceremonious act. Her work routine together with the routine actions of the church’s visitors illuminate the site’s complex history, while also illustrating the status quo delicately maintained by the Christian sects who share control of the Church.
The works in this exhibition attempt to turn actions into objects and vice versa. Clare, Surface, and Border walk the thin line between documentary and narrative. Though the materials are documentary, through the filming and editing techniques the viewer is removed from the concrete, becoming both audience and participant. The sound processing enhances this feeling: Pereg deletes the original voices and sounds, reconstructing instead a number of selected noises to create a new soundtrack which echoes in synchrony on the different screens. Francis, an additional work on display in the exhibition, follows a street artist in London who cares for the pigeons on the banks of the Thames, and offers a surprising secular counterpart to the nun cleaning the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Pereg's work examines actions of faith in locations such as Jerusalem’s Meah Shearim neighbourhood and The Cave of the Patriarchs, depicting these acts in terms of sanctity, faith, and sensuality, as well as the everyday, menial labor, and erotica, seeing in them a performative act. Just as the sites to which she is drawn have both spiritual and sociopolitical dimensions, so also do these works focus on the believers’ charging of inanimate materials – stone, tile, wood, and cement – with holiness. The reverence and sensual devotion expressed by the faithful to the Stone of Unction, caressing it with holy oil and cloths, are replaced at night by the dedicated work of the nun who wipes the stone clean with detergent in anticipation of another day of believers who view the stone as holy by virtue of its location.
Filming & Editing: Nira Pereg
Sound design : Nati Zeidenstadt
Post: Tal Korjak
2015 | BORDER | The Church of the Holly Sepulchre, Jerusalem
| 41 sec.loop > Edition of 7+2AP
BORDER introduces the founding principle of the church- segregation. An orthodox nun (appearing later on in the work CLARE) points her finger, like a tour guide, to a groove between stones, a scratch on the wall, or a change in the color of the floor. These architectural marks, although almost invisible, are actually modest signifiers of the foundation for the status-quo maintained in the church since the 18th century, as they indicate the territorial divisions of the church to six different denominations. The short repeated mute loop shows us the hidden bureaucracy behind the mechanism the church revolves around.
2015 | surface | The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem
| 8 min 19 sec.loop > Edition of 7+2AP
SURFACE is an important piece of the puzzle in the work THE RIGHT TO CLEAN which tries to turn actions into objects and vice versa. It documents the reverence and sensual devotion expressed by the faithful towards the Stone of Unction.
The location's context and materialism is challenged by the visitors who add their own physicality and private objects which they bring into the church in order to venerate and charge them with holly powers.
The Stone of Unction is believed to be the place on which the body of Jesus was laid after being taken down from the cross to be prepared for burial. Pilgrims kiss, touch and caress the stone, believing its sanctity is transferable.
This work is juxtaposed with the work CLARE, in which the stone is cleaned from the actions performed by the pilgrims.
2015 | CLARE | The Church of the Holly Sepulcher, Jerusalem
| 16 min .loop > Edition of 7+2A
The work CLARE joins an orthodox nun for a full night shift of a routine weekly cleaning of the Greek Orthodox areas at Church of the Holy Sepulcher. In CLARE we see an act of subtraction, juxtaposed with the work SURFACE, in which a reverse action is performed.
2005 | FRANCIS | London, England
10 min 14 sec.loop > Edition of 7+2AP
Shot on the South Bank of the river Thames in London, the image of Saint Francis of Assisi is embodied by a street artist, a Romanian immigrant who cares for the many pigeons on the banks of the Thames in London. In return these Pigeons follow him devotionally, thus reassuring his daily bread.
Publisher: The Israel Museum Jerusalem & The Rose Museum Brandeis University. February 2016.
Hard Cover: 86 pages
Language: English & Hebrew
ISBN : 978-965-278-451-3
Dimensions: 17 x21 cm
Design by: Nadav Sahlev
לנקות את הקדושה כלכליסט: Heb
Snapshot: Places to Worship Death
A fine exhibition at Ticho House in Jerusalem
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