In the old city of Jerusalem, the Kassisieh Tile Factory, also known as Al Ma’mal,
meaning the workshop in Arabic, opened in 1900 in the vicinities of the New Gate. One
of the first Hydraulic tile factories in Palestine, it produced industrial ornamental tiles that
would cover the floors of the architectural landscape of that period. In the seventies,
after the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem and following the cessation of industrial
activities in the old city, the tile factory ceased functioning. For a few decades, the
building was neglected. After more then a decade of planning and bureaucratic obstacles, in
2013 the refurbished old factory opened its doors and houses the cultural institution: Al
Mamal Foundation for Contemporary Arts. During this process, mandatory archeological
excavation where made in the building, some older traces where uncovered revealing the
layered history the city of Jerusalem is known for. Those different historical elements were
integrated into the design of the new space, to serve its new function. Resulting in a space
with different sections, of different sizes and heights, on different levels, and of different
material and functional nature.
At first glance, grasping the space and the different sections of the building, seems
misleading. But the nature of the building has intrinsic potentialities to perceive the spaces
in its different spacial coordinates, to interconnect them and reveal the transparency
between them. Transparency understood also as a void in between the positive and
negative space, the invisible particles that absorbs and reflect light. One of the objectives of
the exhibition is to bring back a crucial element extracted from the history of the space in
order to reveal other aspects that are linked to it. This element was the hydraulic tiles.
Expanding the perspective of what we know about the tiles as a body in time and space,
connecting and disconnecting its material and immaterial stories. Creating a sense of
proportion it occupies in the longer temporality, and to the space where it is displayed.
Without any architectural intervention to enclose space, placing the work in a situation of
confrontation with the space. The elements re-orient the building, communication with the
materiality of the spaces, revealing the space. A back and forth dialogue between the
positive and negative space, mirroring and projecting stories onto each other. Creating a
situation of Gestalt.
Creating an exhibition where movement is required, where all the elements and the space
are put in tension, and from everywhere the audience can see and be seen. Approaching the
Al Mama’l from the new gate, a square floats above the building. Entering the main space,
the installation “Crypt of Sky” creates a vertical link, a kaleidoscope is hanging in between
two sky lights, connecting the roof, the sky and the lower floor where the ruins are. In the
room the stone walls are left bare to tell their own story, the space is empty except for the
two recesses in the wall, shelving some old tiles. This room lead to a lower and a higher
floor suggesting a loop, both routes are possible. Continuing some steps up to the second
floor that has the appearance of a “white cube”, two series of “ the Discord” are hanged on
the walls, the background of where they are placed is painted in a blueish grey, a frame
suggesting a space in a space. In the room, one painting is placed on a box, questioning
perception. From this space stairs lead to the roof, where the inverted square mirror floats
over the building, placed above the skylight. Under the mirror, the kaleidoscope creates the
optical illusion of the crypt and that of a hollow tunnel. Back down to the middle room, the
work “Traces”, connects the skylight to the spiral staircase, strings echo the direction of the
rays of sun that immerses the space with light during the day. From the top of the stairs the
lower floor can be seen, the paintings of “the Discord” are placed on boxes in different
heights suggesting a topography. Spiraling down the stairs, two painting are hanged in a
vertical logic accompanying the movement, again framed by. The boxes are dispersed in the
L shape room, one of the wings is a large hall, the other a vaulted passage that leads back
up to the the main space. The rectangular angles of the boxes are juxtaposed to the
irregular geometry of the space. From the second space one can enter to the room where
the ruins are. A square mirror is place in that space under the sky lights. Back in the vaulted
room four painting are aligned on the longitudinal wall, accompanying the movement in
the space. Under the steel stairs that lead back up to the entrance, the video “Magnet” Is
project, and placed bellow eye sight. on the way up, an other vault frames the kaleidoscope.
The Exhibition continues in a second venue, Galery Anadiel, about a hundred meters from
Al Mamal. It’s a rectangular shaped space, a typical ground floor “old city” shop structure
from the 19th century. In symmetrical display vitrines, two old tiles are placed. At the
entrance in the space between the facade and a mezzanine, “Sediments of discord” are
hanged on both sides, placed one above each other, following the verticality of the space.
Under the mezzanine, Dyptics from “the Discord” are hanged on the sides of the space. In
the middle of the space, on the floor, the “Terminal” is installed, juxtaposed with the
ornamental tiles of the space.
text by Basak Senova and Benji Boyadgian
In conjunction with the exhibition, a book, edited by Basak Senova and published by Al Ma’mal, will be launched, documenting Boyadgian’s artistic research, as well as the artworks. It will discuss the aesthetic, historical, political, social, and philosophical aspects around the project. It will include essays by Jack Persekian, Johnathan Habib Engqvist, Sinan Logie, Behzad Khosravi, and Ali Akay along with an extensive interview with Benji Boyadgian. The online version of the book will be hosted by ibraaz.org.