Dutch photographer Ad van Denderen (b. 1943) is intensely intrigued by those living in exceptional situations. Jerusalem Stone at Huis Marseille Museum, Amsterdam, explores his work created during visits to Israel and the Palestinian territories, in which he aims to shed light on the precarious situation in this region. The exhibition marks a meeting point in the artist’s career, as the images combine his recognisable monochromatic documentary style of 25 years with a more recent, removed and monumental colour approach.
The exhibition features images from Peace in the Holy Land, a photobook documenting the shifting landscape from four years spent in the region, alongside more informal work from successive visits. Foregrounding the daily lives of Palestinians and Israelis, the photographs offer a different view to those provided by the press. For example, snapshots from 2003 of residents surmounting the border wall between Abu Dis, an Arab neighbourhood in Jerusalem, and the rest of the city provide a marked juxtaposition to the images of violence that have come to illustrate the divide in the contemporary consciousness.
Van Denderen further subverts perceived notions of place in 2012’s uncanny Baladia. This series provides a detached view of an Israeli Army training centre, constructed as a simulated Arab city solely for replicating scenes of battle. Originally intended to create an immersive, realistic experience, the photographer’s representation of the deserted town instead possess a hyperreal look. Signs of daily life, such as clothes hanging on a washing line, become unreal and disconnected objects.
Stone, a visual and material identifier of the region, is used as a powerful cipher for the tumultuous area. The title of the exhibition references the exact limestone from which all developments within the Old City of Jerusalem’s Western Wall are required to be built. The physicality of the material becomes paramount, as it is used simultaneously as a barrier, a weapon and a defence. Van Denderen’s work both exemplifies and challenges this notion, proving that life can continue in the face of both physical and metaphorical blockades.
Jerusalem Stone opens 9 December. Find out more: www.huismarseille.nl
1.Image: Baladia, 2012 © Ad van Denderen.