Performances and Happenings
Marta Dell'Angelo, e ed è, 2018
They're 311 words selected from a chain of synonyms starting from the noun water. The alphabetical order allows a form of reading inspired by the idea of the litany (mantra, rosari, nenie, etc.).
If you are careful, walking through the narrow streets of the Pescatori island you can hear in some corner ... è affluente, e affluenza, è afflusso, e alimento, e allarga, è allagamento.... (it is a tributary, and influx, it is influx, and food, and widens, it is flooding ....)
When the sun goes down, at the end of the island, it's possible to watch also the performance e ed è and it's interpreted in a choral way by two actors.
Elena EL Asmar, Posare parole, 2018
Distracted by a hundred poems, with each, one or more sentences, containing the word water. Printed at a plants nursery, on labels with slots (those used in commerce, which are attached to the plants) and placed by the artist on plants brought from a fishing boat on the island. These plants remain on the island as a tribute to the islanders.
The aspect of the word that metaphorically brings us back to the image of water, for the poets who have drawn inspiration over the centuries, is a discreet and free presence in the interpretation of those who will use it both symbolically and literally.
Benji Boyadgian, Still Waters, 2017-2018
Freshwater, you quench our thirst and give life, but you also mold our surroundings and shape the concrete reality. And in a blink: a flash flood.
We waited for a rainy day, it was a dry year. The forecast was promising, it had rained at night. We set off early in the morning, the sun was shining, the sky was blue.
From one pool to another pool. We walked along the hypothetical route of an old aqueduct, dowsing the ghosts of the water that used to run through this channel. Searching for traces and filming stills every now and then. The walk was a pretext to cross this conurbation on the meridian, ignoring the East-West dichotomy Jerusalem is known for. We didn’t take into consideration boundaries of any sort. We just walked along the supposed channel.
To some extent, the idea of Jerusalem seems absurd, because of its lack of water sources. At the fringe of the desert, one source in the guts of a rocky hill, a spring that gushes intermittently, around which humans settled a long time ago. Since then, demography has oscillated with the availability of water, periods of important growth were always aided by the construction of water infrastructure. The urban landscape as we know it today is a manifestation of the latest phase of growth that started in the mid-19th century.
Since then, Jerusalem is encroaching villages and cities surrounding it. This generalized sprawl, following a North-South axis, has made it difficult to delineate non physical boundaries. From a satellite’s perspective, it looks like one big city; from close, a fragmented urban ‘pâté’.
The clouds were getting thicker, and darker. Rain started to trickle down.
The second is not the first. The second aqueduct is not the original aqueduct. But for a few centuries it was the only one. The channel that gave life for a story to continue its course. A city that does not have enough water sources to sustain its rituals. A city growing off its ancient water systems, off its ground, a fiction that is its own reflection.
Abandoned, forgotten, and devoid of projections, residues, deposited in the riddle that is archaeology. The water channel ceased to function about fourteen centuries ago, probably due to recurrent clogging of the pressure pipe, the best-preserved trace of the aqueduct.
A two-kilometer-long stone pipe, stamped by the Roman Tenth Legion at some point during the 2nd century AD, perhaps on the ruins of a Herodian structure, in order to bring water back to the upper city, baptized Aelia Capitolina. A pressure pipe, that made it possible for water to flow the straight way to Jerusalem. From the south of Bethlehem to the old city of Jerusalem, we walked through a landscape of a thousand and one borders.
In the dry heat that seems to linger into fall, we raise our hands to the air, deploring the skies. Then one day it rains. When it rains, it pours. Rainfall is sporadic but heavy, functional and sublime. Droughts are common, so are good years. It only rains intermittently in the winter, during a period of about six months. Summers are hot and dry; overheat can affect behavior. Historically, hydraulic crises often resulted in tension.
Throughout time people survived by storing rain water, reflecting an empirical experience of a place. Cavities in the rock storing water and memory. Industrialization of water conveyance systems made the building of cisterns financially obsolete. In Israel it is illegal to store water, but since a few years, in corollary to the unequal distribution of water, in the territories under Palestinian administration it has become compulsory to plan for a cistern in order to get a building permit.
Was it providence that brought the storm at the exact moment we reached the wall, and dusk when we reached the green line?
The next day we set off before dawn, no rain was forecast. We waited a whole month until the next rainfall.
During the 19th century, Western archeologists, a trowel in one hand and the Bible in the other, stumbled upon the second aqueduct. Some studied it and suggested its route, but it remained hypothetical because of the lack of traces. A few intuitively dated it to Herod, because it brought water to the upper city, where his palace was located, and the city was sprawling. But the second aqueduct remained less appealing than the first one, the original one.
The “lower level aqueduct”, was built around 150 BC, and is perceived, since the premise of biblical archeology, as a meta-pipe, connecting Jerusalem to its Solomonic past, an idea later refuted by archeological evidence. Both aqueducts where probably destroyed by the Roman army during the Jewish revolt between 66 and 70 AD. A few centuries later, probably in the early Islamic period, the first aqueduct would be fixed, restored numerous times afterwards, and function until the early 20th century.
From 1967 up until today, various digs undertaken by the Israel Antiquities Authority, during preventative excavations, unveiled the route of the higher-level aqueduct. Documented before making way for construction. The traces slowly connected the dots, although a topographical riddle persists. In the 1970’s, remains of pillars were noted in Bethlehem, bringing forth evidence of its Herodian past.
Being at a lower point in the mountain range, the topography made the flow of water possible by gravity before industrialization. The old city of Jerusalem as we know it today, was last rebuilt in the early 16th century by Sultan Suleiman following approximately the layout of Aelia Capitolina. In parallel, important hydraulic works were undertaken and a third aqueduct was built. From the early 20th century, industrialization and its pumps changed the whole water logic. Larger amounts of water were made available, but for the new neighborhoods. Water was a geopolitical issue ever since the late Ottoman period, the authority holding on to a four-century old endowment, a resource central to Western colonial ambitions, vital to local awareness and their desire of self-determination, and essential to the Zionist territorial strategy.
In this “thirsty city”, some roofs are covered with water tanks, others only with hot water solar systems. This simple observation hints at a story well documented and unresolved for more than a century, or even, a story as old as humankind. A story of control and distribution of resources, a story of the dominant and the dominated.
Water, you are a scarce resource, an environmental issue and a geopolitical factor. You are omnipresent in the imaginaries that shape this place, a mutation between collective subconscious and “hyperpolitics”. From your functional to your phantasmagorical value, you flowed through the threshold of dreams, leaving fictional traces in those aqueducts, umbilical cords for a story where projection dictates memory.
Along the path of this dried out channel, the urban landscape of Jerusalem found fertile ground. A collage of every architectural desire that streamed through this place in the course of the last century and a half has sprouted. Architectonic elements reflecting stories of Orientalism, colonialism and projective appropriation. A disoriented built fabric, in all of its scales. A unilateral territorial race that transformed this city into an urban laboratory for segregational, mobility and memory planning. Physical evidences, witnesses of socio-economical imbalance, territorial control and history writing. In this pipe, deposits formed by evaporation reveal the fossils of our desires. Along this dehydrated pipe, we lost our senses.
In this story, the spring grew into channels, pools and aqueducts, gathering water from other sources, and ultimately into a machine pumping lakes and aquifers elsewhere to channel dreams into this insatiable city. And now, the age of salt water purification has arrived, a mirage of redemption, a predicament to our neglect for humankind and for the environment.
And in the guts of The Mount, still waters intermittently runs deep.