Mark Wallinger is a contemporary British artist known for works on political and religious themes, including 'Angel' (1997), 'Ecce Homo' (1999) and 'Threshold of the Kingdom' (2000). This work is one of a trio of works inspired by divided cities—Jerusalem, Berlin and Famagusta—that Wallinger describes as ‘three of the most divided places you can find anywhere’.
Unlike the Christianised visions of the city that dominate the visual history of Jerusalem in pre-twentieth century Western art, Wallinger’s work recognises two religious traditions, Judaism and Islam, coexisting yet divided in the city. The work itself is constructed on a folding screen, embodying the act of dividing space. On the left side of the screen is the Sultan’s Pool, an ancient water reservoir surrounded by a Herodian acqueduct. This water source was modernized by the sixteenth century Ottoman sultan Suleiman, whose extensive renovation of Jerusalem as a city of Islamic prestige earned him the title of the ‘Second Solomon’.
On the right side of the screen is an image of the Mishkenot Sha’ananim, the first Jewish settlement outside of the Old City, established in 1860. The patron of this project was Sir Moses Montefiore, a wealthy British Jew deeply invested in Jerusalem, who believed it would one day be 'the seat of a Jewish Empire'.
The juxtaposition of the two photographs allows the artist to create a neutral, side-by-side presentation, offering a poignant reflection on the tension of the coexistence of Islam and Judaism in Jerusalem. By placing the two sites together—one a monument of the Muslim Empire, the other a representation of ninteenth century hopes for a Jewish counterpart—Wallinger recognises the profound religious and political turmoil of contemporary Jerusalem, while also hinting of a hoped for bridging of the divide in a fractured city.
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