Accepted Paper:

The Art of Postindustrial Infrastructure: Jerusalem's Railway Park  


Juliana Ochs Dweck (Princeton University)

Paper short abstract:

Examining artistic practices that have emerged out of a new postindustrial urban landscape in Jerusalem, this paper investigates infrastructure as both subject and effect of politically-engaged Israeli art.

Paper long abstract:

This paper studies a postindustrial urban landscape in Jerusalem as an infrastructure created and sustained by artistic practices. In 2012, out of the Ottoman railway built in 1892 between Jerusalem and Jaffa, a new linear landscape emerged in Jerusalem. The highly-designed assemblage of site-specific plantings, railway remnants, and concrete boardwalk thick with pedestrian traffic overlays seven kilometers of original iron ties. Over the course of 100 years of Turkish, British, then Israeli rule, the railway functioned as a political border, an artifact of war, and vehicle for nation-building. Now, in this space where landscape architecture and planning politics mediate the postmodern citizenship of Israelis and Palestinians, the new urban bionetwork (of greenspace, water, transport, capital) is both an icon of Jerusalem's future and a microcosm of its tensions. Despite its municipal veneer, the new pathway was fueled by collaborative art 'happenings' and has been continuously reinterpreted by local artists. Through ethnographic case studies of three contemporary works of performance art and installation bound with Railway Park, this paper investigates the role that infrastructure plays in politically-engaged Israeli art—a fragile field newly riddled with the threat of Israeli state censorship of the arts. How is infrastructure both subject and effect of artistic practice within this contested landscape? At the intersection of art and infrastructure there emerges an aesthetic of temporality that not only creates a dialogue between nineteenth century modernity and 21st century postindustrial citizenship but also contributes to new political consciousness of the civic potentiality of materiality-beyond-landscape.

Panel P092
The art of infrastructure