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Sewing Jerusalem Maps, 2013

Sewing the Wounded Land Maps (2009-2013)  made of fragments of  ‘West Bank Closures – Jerusalem’ Maps started in 2009  The maps show the Green Line, Israeli settlements and Palestinian villages, checkpoints and walls, barriers (planned and built) and road networks. The data is collected by OCHA (Humanitarian Information Centre) and the maps are the distributed by the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in East Jerusalem. These maps, first used for a performance held in 2004, became later a metaphorical reflection of Jerusalem complex reality regarding its disputed boundaries.

Surgical Operation (2004) took place in the midst of the Second Intifada in the attic of the Anglican School where remnants of abandoned hospital equipment was discovered. The maps were brought on a military stretcher to the operating table, cut apart, sewn with green thread or patched with plaster bandages by two nurses amid breaking TV and radio news recorded during the Second Intifada. Dressed as a surgeon, I performed this ‘surgical operation’ on Closure Maps in a vain and absurd effort to cure the city from its pathologic chronic violence. During the years 2002-2008, in a quest to transcend borders and fear, I moved from the abstract lines of cartographical maps into a more concrete reality, documenting with my camera the new reality of fences and checkpoints being erected at the edge of the city.

At the end of my peregrinations into the Border Land and longing for healing, I projected myself into the new fictional spaces of Wounded Land. In August 2009 I created my first maps, covering fragments of Closure maps with sterile bandages and plaster. Cutting, erasing, sewing and swathing the maps in bandages allowed me to deconstruct the hierarchy of cartographic power inscribed within the original maps. Sewing the green letter X signifying ‘Barrier Gates’ as a decorative stitch around the maps, I created each time and in various locations a singular meditative moment.

My first public performative act of sewing the maps which I had created in my studio took place in Jerusalem during the art event ‘Manofim’ at the Yellow Submarine Gallery in September 2009. In March 2011, I performed at the Artist’s House in Tel Aviv and in September at the Geneva University within the framework of the conference Mobile Borders (Border Regions in Transition (BRIT) XI) co-hosted by the Geography Department, University of Geneva and the Alpine Geography Institute, University Joseph Fourier-Grenoble. In November 2011, dressed in white, with a skirt made from fragments of maps and bandages, I  stitched  a map in the Old City of Jerusalem, beside the Damascus Gate, the Wailing Wall and the Holy Sepulcher, ‘healing’ the invisible wound running through the city landscape and the collective psyche.

In June 2012 I took part in a workshop in Zurich entitled Cartography & Narratives organized by the Commission on Art and Cartography of the International Cartographic Association (ICA) in collaboration with ETH Zurich, Institute of Cartography and Geo information and Concordia University (Montreal). One night, strolling through the Old City of Zurich, I passed in front of the Cabaret Voltaire where the Dada movement was born on February 5th 1916. The following day, I went to sew a map in front of few puzzled visitors. I felt that there at the Cabaret Voltaire, it would all made sense: the maps I cut, the maps I dress and stitch and the vain healing of something bigger than me. In April 2013 in view of a new video for the performance at the Cabaret Voltaire, I created and sewed a new map in my studio in Jerusalem, my nails painted in green like the Green Line on the Closure Map. In June 2013, I sewed a Wounded Land Map by the spring in Lifta, on the site of the abandoned Palestinian village, at the outskirts of Jerusalem, a place also known in the Bible as Mei Neftoah.


Ariane Littman