Public Resonance: Massada, Isreal (2005)
massada is located near the southern end of the dead sea, in Israel, and holds a story from the history of the Jewish people. a story told from a number of perspectives over time.
if you were to go there today, you would hear about the Jewish martyrs who held the Romans at bay.
having plenty of water and supplies, they threw stones and ceramic containers of water onto the romans below who were trying to invade the mountaintop fortress.
the romans had no water, and were dying from thirst.
it seemed that the Jews atop the mountain of massada could hold out forever, if it were not for a certain change in the tactics of the romans.
instead of building their access ramp themselves, the romans began using Jews from other parts of the country that they had captured.
these people atop the mountain are represented as the last holding out against the roman invasion.
the Jews no longer would throw stones down on their brethren and conquer was inevitable.
as the modern story goes, the people atop the mountain had to make a decision.
would they submit and become slaves and ‘have to renounce their god?’
or was there another option?
it is said that, from historical evidence, that there was a decision made to make mass suicide.
the men killed their wives and children, and then themselves. the last man committing suicide.
this is cited as a heroic act, and that these people would rather give up their lives than their faith.
a friend of mine who was studying modern israeli politics was doing a project on massada.
he told me another story.
that this religious and zionist story was created as a political and religious myth to support the acquisition of Israel in the 20th century.
we all create and tell stories, and we am fascinated how the same story can be told for very opposing opinions.
this is the beauty and vulnerability of stories, and these tales are the foundation for almost all of our activity.
this project was enacted from my memory of this story, and its coloring through this site being absolutely covered in a thin dust of tourists today.
with a certain story in mind, anything within the site is a piece of evidence.
at every turn in the snake trails progression up the mountain there was made a quick ink drawing in brown ink, which absorbed into the stone, and soon would fade in the hot desert sunlight.
the progression of these drawings is like the progression of the story in the mind and through time.
images of the romans,
of jews holding out on top of the mountain,
and of tourists with camera’s documenting suicide.
eventually we gained the top, and met my father who took the gondola, which makes this mountaintop tourist site accessable to a larger number of people.
all of the works are labelled in roman numerals.
we wonder what sites similar to this around the world were to record the versions of the stories that people walk away with,
and incorporate them into the representation of the site, a living story, unselfconsciously repeating its function and meaning through time.
we wonder how this story that we tell of my interaction with this place will change by the next time we visit this site, or the next time we read this story here.
in one of the exhibition atop the mountain, in the ruins of one of the buildings, where they have traced the line of where it was rebuilt, there still exists some element of the paintings on the inside, like some mournful and faded flag of culture, in a site now rebuilt with religious and political stories.
if indeed you hold a story of this site, or of a similar progression of meaning within a ‘historical site’ we would love to hear it. click on the comment button below.
these works form a part of the series ‘pubic resonance’ where different public works are installed to interpret and otherwise change the surroundings. this work was done while walking the ‘snake trail’ a part of the historical route to the summit of Massada.
see other public resonance works here: