Frieze of 62 found archival photographs; 69 Eucalyptus camaldulensis seeds, collected from 69 Eucalyptus trees in the Ma’man Allah cemetery, Jerusalem; 69 bilingual texts, each framed; 7 photographs from Barmah Forest, Victoria; photography: Christian Capurro; total work 3567 × 230 cm.
Exh.: Comparative Monument (Ma'Man Allah), solo show at Milani Gallery, Brisbane, 4 — 27 September, 2014.
Comparative monument (Ma’man Allah) begins with the remarkable and dominating presence of Australian Eucalyptus trees in the Ma’man Allah/Mamilla cemetery in Jerusalem, Palestine’s oldest and most important Islamic cemetery. These “River Red Gums” that now cover the cemetery originate in early Zionist Eucalyptus plantations, but are famous in Australia for their connection to Barmah, an area of southern Australia where the Cummeragunja Walk-Off took place in 1939, a landmark act of anti-colonial resistance.
Comparative monument (Ma’man Allah) is both a walk and a proposition. It is a walk with 69 stations, a textually described itinerary that moves from one Eucalyptus to another through the entire contemporary site of the cemetery. This walk is accompanied by a sequence of archival photographs of the site, which become a way to indirectly describe the histories that criss-cross the site, encompassing the remarkable Mamilla Pool (built by Herod the Great, since 1948 drained of water, a massive void in the middle of the cemetery); the site’s manifold significance in the events leading up to 1948, when the cemetery became part of Israeli West Jerusalem; the destruction of half the cemetery to create Independence Park, inaugurated in 1959 by David Ben-Gurion; and the cemetery’s contemporary status as a contested site for a Museum of Tolerance (an array of histories to which the monumental Australian Eucalyptus trees stand as unlikely witnesses).
Along similar lines to its sibling work Comparative monument (Palestine) this new work is also a proposition, a proposition articulated at the end of its 35-metre frieze, a proposition that begins with collecting seeds from each of the 69 Eucalyptus trees in the cemetery. Comparative monument (Ma’man Allah) is an attempt to articulate the historical links and echoes between Jerusalem and Australia. Drawing on the symbolic importance of trees in Israel and Palestine, and in Australian commemorative traditions, such as the Lone Pine, it is also attempt and to rethink the nature and possibilities of the monument itself, and its linkages to drawing and walking.
Artist Tom Nicholson discusses his work on the occasion of the opening of 'Comparative monument (Ma'man Allah)' at Milani Gallery, Brisbane, with introduction by Josh Milani.
Helen Hughes's essay on Comparative monument (Ma'man Allah) for Broadsheet.