This project is documenting, comprehensively studying, and conceptualizing the visual projections of Jerusalem in Europe. Its aim is to study the phenomenon of Jerusalem’s mobility in changing historical, religious, and spiritual conditions; the various factors that were instrumental in transporting Jerusalem abroad, at different times and geographical locations; and the dynamics of exchanges and confrontations between the three monotheistic religions as expressed visually when referring to Jerusalem.
SPECTRUM focuses on the meeting points between the ”shapes of the holy” in Jerusalem itself and those created by translation elsewhere, especially in Europe. The act of translation is addressed in all its complexity: causes, stages, commonalities between model and copy as well as distortions and twists, channels of transmission, motivations, political ramifications, the limits of similarity, imitations and adaptations, convergence and divergence in shape and ritual, and more.
Jerusalem is a constant presence in the mind of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The visual element in this presence is no less weighty than the textual testimonies. However, unlike those testimonies, the visual evidence is still largely undervalued as a primary source in historical and cultural studies. SPECTRUM is primarily dedicated to monumental, architectural reproductions, the most prominent carriers of Jerusalem’s presence elsewhere, but it also includes pictorial and sculptural representations, as well as objects and artifacts that complement these or serve as connecting elements and witnesses.
The projections of Jerusalem that form the core of SPECTRUM can be described as multimedia manifestations of the city. They are topographical recreations of Jerusalem's loca sancta, arranged in spatial relationships that sometimes reproduce the real ones. The holy places are represented through architecture as well as sculptures that reenact the events that made the respective place holy, complemented by mural paintings and many artifacts. In each complex, the number of constituent components varies according to region, time, and resources and has often been subject to later changes. However, the combined use of topography, architecture, sculpture, and painting; the outlining of a landscape as sacred space; the possibility of moving within these complexes, are essential features of them all.
So far, a comprehensive view of these genres, combined with a study of their use and functioning on long timescales has never been attempted. Several underlying factors account for the past fragmented approach. One of them results from the history of the discipline of art history. Modern research still largely depends on attitudes that originated in the Renaissance and were perpetuated through seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth century scholarship, which classified these types of monuments and installations as “low art“ with no place in an art-historical discourse. Today, with the infusion of new media and technologies into our visual life and the shift toward a comprehensive Kunstwissenschaft, art history has become more generous and embracing, and the contribution of “popular” art to a deeper understanding of cultural phenomena is universally recognized, allowing these monuments to take their place in the academic discourse.
Once revealed in all its density and complexity by the project, the rich chain of Jerusalem representations will not only enhance understanding of the complex and enduring phenomenon of Jerusalem but also of inner processes, preoccupations, and aspirations in Europe, while significantly contributing to the ongoing discourse about images and their role in history and society.