Jerusalem Show III
The Jerusalem Syndrome


Nina Möntmann

 The title of this years’ Jerusalem Show, Jerusalem Syndrome, serves as a metaphor for approaching the many facettes of a contested city divided by occupation and ethnic-religious segregation.

 The city of Jerusalem is characterized by the concentration of diversity and its conflicts – spiritual, political and territorial at the same time. The Jerusalem Syndrome overtakes tourists, who are overwhelmed by the unique denseness of spiritual sites in the Holy City, their history and imaginaries. Between fifty and two hundred travellers, pilgrims and tourists, every year are affected by the syndrome, believing they are Virgin Mary or the Messiah. They are walking around the city, trying to spread the news of their palingenesis or the apocalypse – before they are taken to the state psychriatic ward. Therefore the Jerusalem Syndrome stands for enlightenment and collapse at the same time, it is the strongest effect Jerusalem can have on the personality of a visitor. The madness and illusion of being chosen also characterizes the relations of religion and power, when the historical importance of religious sites are cited to legitimate territorial claims over the city. In this sense Jerusalem is also the nucleus of the occupation and its spatial-military pratice.

For the Jerusalem Show 2009 the metaphor of the Jerusalem Syndrome is supposed to serve as an entry for individual approaches to the Old City, exploring its enclaves, wandering its labyrinths, and telling its stories histories from multiple points of view.

In the film "Jerusalem Syndrome“ by Nathan Coley, Dr Moshe Kalian, District Psychiatrist of Jerusalem, is sharing his experiences with patients, who are affected by the syndrome, while we can watch members of all religions worshipping at the various holy sites in Jerusalem. The film suggests that there is only a fine line between religiousness brought to an extreme, and tragedy, which includes the endangerment of others. Alluding to the alleged spiritual content of every stone in Jerusalem, Dora Garcia turns the experiences of ten performers walking the Old City of Jerusalem into „Prayers.“


Another fact that is adding a psychological dimension to the visit of Jerusalem is the density of surveillance cameras. Some 1000 cameras are placed in the Old City alone, which is creating the dichotomic relationship of Paranoia on the one side and Claustrophobia on the other. Shaina Anand and Nida Ghouse (CAMP, Mumbai) are working in a neighborhood that is overseen by a more covert, privatly put up watchtower. In contrast to these subtle modes of surveillance, the „official“ watchtowers of the West Bank in Taysir Batniji’s photoseries „Miradors“ appear as „cathedrals“ of the occupation, and are marking the official modes of surveillance and control. Ra’ouf  Haj Yahya’s new animated film, however, is dealing with a more innocent idea of watching – modes of watching TV in Palestine.

Relating to the history and the current situation in Jerusalem Michael Rakowitz’ multi-faceted project „The Breakup“ includes a live concert with well-known musicians from Jerusalem, who are playing  a tribute to the last Beatles gig before the famous band broke up. The suggestive line-up of which is: Two of Us – The Long and Winding Road – Don’t Let Me Down – Get Back – Let it Be.

All artists in the Jerusalem Show 2009, almost thirty, are engaged  in projects that activate the venues in the Old City in a particular way, be it poetic, activist, documentary, or fictional. We hope that the show creates meaningful and enjoyable encounters for passersby, who are surprised by one or two works they encounter accidentally, art interested folks, who are joining our tours or using the exhibition-map to follow the parcours of the venues, or those, who live with one artwork, because it is installed in their neighborhood, or temporarily moved in their shop, office, restaurant, hospice or community center.