The power of archaeology in nationalist struggles springs from the fiction that archaeology is an objective science and from the obfuscation of the political endeavor. Nationalists use archaeology both to prove their myths dispassionately and to reveal and reconstruct an “authentic” objectified heritage.” – Archeology as a Political Action Randall H. McGuire, University of California press.
Story & History features two projects that investigate archaeology as a political method by which myths and Israeli national identity are constructed, these projects introduce constructive ways of thinking about the dangers and complexities of the current established historical narratives in Israel as well as its current political climate.
Accomplished under the guise of a fictitious institution, The Sarah Gray Research Headquarters (SGRH), this work is the result of “scientific” investigations. SGRH and other fictitious institutions/companies I use in my work provide a jumping-off point for a reexamination of key assumptions embedded in our social and political narratives. The first project, The Discovery of the Celestial Chariot, starts from a “misinterpretation” of Chapter 1 in the Book of Ezekiel in the Bible. Interpretations of ancient text have had a significant impact on collective Jewish and Israeli consciousness, and are a component of Jewish tradition. In this chapter, Ezekiel describes in great details a personal vision of God’s chariot. The SGRH “misinterpreted” the text and concluded that God’s Chariot crashed somewhere in the Jerusalem Hills. The resulting investigations displayed as the artifacts found during the excavations along with a video “documentation” of the excavation in the Jerusalem Hills.
Alternative Histories, the second project in the exhibition is a social engagement project. Some of the pivotal stories on which Israeli collective memory have been established, and on which archaeological investigations were constructed, such as the Masada narrative, have now been proven to be myths, or partial truths. In Alternative Histories Israeli participants imagined different histories to Israel’s formation by making an archive of fictitious archaeological artifacts from recycled materials that were then “unearthed.”
The Discovery of the celestial Chariot in the Jerusalem Hills. Video, 3:34 minutes.