Article: Neurotic Fantasy: The Third Temple As a Metaphor in the Contemporary Israeli Art of Nira Pereg and Yael Bartana
Author: Sigal Barkai
In the political reality of Israel, some symbols lie at the heart of the political, religious, national, and historical discourse that characterize the peoples and cultures living on the Israeli-Palestinian soil. Among these, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is one of the most complex and conflictual symbols. The multiple religious claims to the Temple Mount—Jewish, Christian, and Muslim—are the subject of extensive study, but this article focuses on their reflection in contemporary Israeli art. In traditional Jewish art, the visual representations of the Temple or of Jews praying nearby expressed the longing of the Jews for generations to return to the Mount. In contrast, Yael Bartana and Nira Pereg view the multiple socio-political currents and religious rituals surrounding the Temple Mount as a reflection of the internal public debate regarding the face of the Israeli society today. This article discusses the contribution of their visual art to a conscious and aware discourse about the Israeli society and the underground currents that shape its contemporary identity. The analysis of their work tracks a “politics of aesthetics”—interpretation of the images within a socio-political context—and draws upon Israeli sociology, art history, and visual culture. In-depth personal interviews with the artists also inform the analysis.