Friday, November 25, 2011

The Israel Museum

Contemplating the Shrine of the Book

I HAVE discovered the secret to taking a three-year-old child round a museum. It's not the interactive kids' section (or, at least, it might be but I tend to avoid them - can't bear the other children), but rather the video art installations. Louis adores them. The more esoteric, the better, too.

Take today's trip to the Israel Museum: once he'd got over the excitement of the fountain spraying water over the white domed Shrine of the Book, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls (the oldest bible ever found, for any heathens), the exhibit that most captivated him was a video of a pair of boots sinking into a frozen pond. Because every display had to have some kind of Israeli message, the boots had been first dunked into the Dead Sea to cake them in salt crystals, and then taken to a frozen lake in Gdansk where the salt was left to do its work.

To say the piece was light on the action is an understatement, but still he watched, spellbound, for the full 20 minute or so cycle it took to complete. Another favourite was a man spinning round on his stomach on some tarmac holding a piece of chalk. Yet another was some sort of take off of Eve and the apple, involving a naked lady, lots of watermelons, and some sea. It was supposed to represent the founding of a new country, but the nuances escaped me. And him, I imagine.

The only video installation that left him cold was the one I liked best, Chic-point, by Arab-Israeli artist Sharif Waked. Filmed on an "occupied catwalk", it featured outfits suitable for an Israeli checkpoint. Each one was cut away to reveal a slash of midriff, thereby saving the IDF guards the bother of stopping and searching each Palestinian hoping to pass through.

What with the scale model of Jerusalem at the time of the Second Temple, Anish Kapoor's polished-steel hourglass "Turning the World Upside Down, Jerusalem" sculpture, and the fun scooter trip, on an olive tree-lined path zig-zagging the hill up to the museum, the trip was a hit and one we will repeat - if only to brave the Youth Wing to see if it's worth the fuss.


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