69 Eucalyptus camaldulensis seeds, collected from 69 Eucalyptus trees in the Ma’man Allah cemetery, Jerusalem, displayed in the “Latin Library” of the Khalidi Library; 400 bilingual off-set printed artist’s books, Comparative Monument (Ma’man Allah): A Guide Book to a Collection of 69 Eucalyptus Camaldulensis Seeds in the Khalidi Library, Jerusalem (2012 – 14) displayed as a stack to take away, designed by Ziga Testen, published by Surpllus; inkjet printed image, taken in the Barmah Forest, Victoria; photography: Christian Capurro, displayed as a free-standing billboard, 300 × 450 cm.
Exh.: at the Khalidi Library, Jerusalem, as part of Fractures, The Jerusalem Show VII, curated by Basak Senova, part of the Qalandiya International, director Jack Persekian, in Jerusalem, and through the West Bank and Gaza, October 2014.
Comparative monument (Ma’man Allah) begins with the remarkable and dominating presence of Australian Eucalyptus trees in the Ma’man Allah / Mamilla cemetery in Jerusalem, Palestine’s oldest and most important Islamic cemetery. These “River Red Gums” that now cover the cemetery originate in early Zionist Eucalyptus plantations, but are famous in Australia for their connection to Barmah, an area of southern Australia where the Cummeragunja Walk-Off took place in 1939, a landmark act of anti-colonial resistance.
Comparative monument (Ma’man Allah) is both a walk and a proposition. It is a walk with 69 stations, a textually described itinerary that moves from one Eucalyptus to another through the entire contemporary site of the cemetery. This walk is accompanied by a sequence of archival photographs of the site, which become a way to indirectly describe the histories that criss-cross the site, encompassing the remarkable Mamilla Pool (built by Herod the Great, since 1948 drained of water, a massive void in the middle of the cemetery); the site’s manifold significance in the events leading up to 1948, when the cemetery became part of Israeli West Jerusalem; the destruction of half the cemetery to create independence Park, inaugurated in 1959 by David Ben-Gurion; and the cemetery’s contemporary status as a contested site for a Museum of Tolerance (an array of histories to which the monumental Australian Eucalyptus trees stand as unlikely witnesses).
Along similar lines to its sibling work Comparative monument (Palestine) this new work is also a proposition, a proposition that begins with collecting seeds from each of the 69 Eucalyptus trees in the cemetery.
Comparative monument (Ma’man Allah) is an attempt to articulate the historical links and echoes between Jerusalem and Australia. Drawing on the symbolic importance of trees in Israel and Palestine, and in Australian commemorative traditions, such as the Lone Pine, it is also attempt and to rethink the nature and possibilities of the monument itself, and its linkages to drawing and walking.
This site-specific form of Comparative monument (Ma’man Allah) responded to one of Jerusalem’s most significant and oldest public libraries, the Khalidi Library, which generously hosted the work as part of the Jersualem Show VII. Visitors were conducted through a display of 69 seeds in one room of this Library by a take-away artist’s book. A billboard-scale image taken in the Barmah Forest, Victoria, accompanied the stack of artist’s books in the Library’s main public space. The artist’s books were significantly delayed in the Israeli customs system, and the work was first presented in oral form for the opening night of the Jerusalem Show. For this occasion, the artist recounted the work’s narrative, and its proposition, as a spoken work, assimilating into the project and its narrative the absence of the stack of books from which the work subsequently unfolded.
The first iteration of this project was shown as a solo show at Milani Gallery, Brisbane, earlier in 2014