Clash of Civilizations

It’s the clash of civilizations…within a single country. In Israel, a progressive, liberal spirit co-exists alongside the reactionary attitudes of the ultra-religious orthodox. This friction is evident and tangible in the architecture of Ramot Polin, a site in Jerusalem – and also at Galerie Nordenhake right now, thanks to an architectural case study by Marjetica Potr?.

The housing project for honeybees

The settlement of Ramot Polin, a public housing project, was built in the 1970s as part of the expansion of Jerusalem into the territories occupied by Israel after the Six-Day War in 1967. The symbolic architecture with its cell-like structure (popularly called “the housing project for honeybees”) was meant to suggest the collective spirit and openness of the Jewish society – despite its location on occupied territory.

The sukkahs – a critique of the modern lifestyle

Forty years later, the Orthodox Jewish residents of Ramot Polin have changed the original architecture by building rectangular extensions onto the facades. Many of these are sukkahs, and they have substantially transformed the formal coherence of the architecture, thus making visible the failure of the modernist ideology that informed the original project. By “balkanizing” the modernist architecture, these sukkahs are an implied critique of the modern lifestyle.

The artistic potential of a contradictory social reality

Marjetica Potr? has created a modernist reconstruction of the Ramot Polin honeycomb – including the orthodox annex. Although she conceived and built the piece, this interesting architectural paradox originated from Israel’s contradictory social reality. It almost seems as if reality was a step ahead of art. Furthermore, you can’t help thinking that the orthodox residents of the housing project are the ones with real creativity. The achievement of Marjetica Potr? lies in spotting the “artistic” potential in this reality – and putting it in an artistic context. An act of piracy – albeit an extremely successful one.

  • Galerie Nordenhake, “Marjetica Potr?. In a New Land”, October 22 – January 21, 2012, Tuesday – Saturday 11 – 6 pm.