Helena Walsh

Current Work: Occupied Bodies


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Underground Prisoners Museum, Jerusalem
ZAZ Festival, Israel

The Underground Prisoners Museum is located in a former hostel for Russian pilgrims – a monumental stone building constructed in the 1860s as part of the Russian Compound. During the British Mandate in Palestine (1917–1948), the hostel was used as the central British prison, where criminal prisoners were jailed alongside hundreds of members of the Jewish underground movements. In 1991, the building was given to the Israeli Ministry of Defense, which reconstructed the prison and transformed it into a museum. In recent years, the museum was used for various art events, including the international art biennial Art Focus 4 (2004).

The artist occupied the inside of the “Press” cell at the Underground Prisoners Museum, Jerusalem, stood behind a large television screen. Behind this screen was a camera on a tripod. This camera sent a live feed of still images to the television.

Outside the bars of the prison room from where the audience looked in, there was a square marked out on the ground with red tape. While in the prison cell the artist invited passing audience members to individually stand in this square. Once positioned in the square the artist framed an image of the audience member standing in the square on video, inclusive of the prison bars. The stilled image appeared on the television screen inside the cell. The audience members were “doubly imprisoned” as in the images they appeared as though they were imprisoned behind bars, while equally their image was obtained by the artist and held on screen inside the prison cell.

Punning on the word “Capture” the performance playfully reverts the submissive role of the imprisoned artist from “being captured” to becoming “capturer” through the use of media. In the performance she turned the passive spectator into the spectacle, enslaved by media.