artist: Benji Boyadgian
venue: Al Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art and Anadeil Gallery
coordinates: Old City, Jerusalem, 2017
The idea of ‘discord’ stems from its geological definition. It is an attempt to look at what lies beneath the surface of ‘tiles’ as the subject and core of the artistic research. Therefore, the tiles can be considered as a literal analogy of ‘surface’, as well as the source inspiration for this project that lasted six years. The notion of surface contains information in the standpoint of the long temporality, whilst in a certain way, it tends to create entropy by the machines of the industrial era. The tiles are evidently a trace of an accumulative history. The Discord dismantles the entangled layers and temporalities encompassing the story of those tiles. The numerous fictions hovering around these histories, which the project researched and reflected on are the suggestions of layered, eroded, discordant surfaces and sediments. The project itself addresses a discordant act of digging through layers by inverting temporalities of multiple histories and the present.
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 than 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. Spiralling 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, Diptychs 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, was launched, documenting Boyadgian’s artistic research, as well as the artworks. It discusses the aesthetic, historical, political, social, and philosophical aspects around the project. It includes 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 is hosted by ibraaz.org.