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  • Writer's pictureEva van der Zand

That we’ve forgotten the rain

That we’ve forgotten the rain / we recall only when it rains / and there’s no longer any point in discovering what’s been forgotten / and grieving its absence” (Joao Delgado)

A quote from a Portugese man, who was born in Portimao and died in Amsterdam.

Imagine one of the suburbs of Jerusalem in winter time. Where heavy storms, thunder and rain are a weekly thing. After a day of rain the air is clean. In a bit of a morning fog I walk into a calm cultural building with a beautiful garden around it. It was an old hospital currently called “Beit Hansen”, started by a German doctor in the mid nineteen century. Before it was called the Jesus Hilfe Lepers’ Hospital. Under the main stair an exhibition is shown called “That we have forgotten the rain”. It takes place in one of the spaces, in the mamuta art and research centre.

The installation is made by Itamar Mendes-Flor. An Israeli born artist. He names himself a cinematographer, stills photographer, painter, set designer, builder and lighting designer. “He tries to observe and explore the place where inner states and outer realities meet.”

The location was the old water basement, also known as cistern. The basement of water storage was a source of freshwater for treatment of the hospital’s patients and for watering the trees and plants of the compound’s autarchic farm. The installation is made out of copper water pipes. There is a lot of movement, kinetica. In the present exhibit water evaporates, is absorbed, and shapes the materials it comes into contact with. He shows connections that are not directly seen. On an old turning device a rock is spinning, by the spinning a water drop is moved. The atmosphere is dark. A spotlight lightens the water drop and gives it a crystal shine. The materials the artist used are stone, water, metal for the machine, electricity, copper, and lighting. The artist used a combination of man made materials and natural materials.

The context of the installation is essential. In Israel rain is a rare thing. Because of that I can imagine that there is a long period in the year that people forget how the rain is. For that reason the beauty he shows in the rain installations makes people connect to the rain. Also modern technology changes the use of the old ways of water storage. It became a mystery for a lot of people. In israel houses and people hardly store their own rain anymore. I wonder why people became dependent on the system and stop using more local systems.

In his work there are various messages hiding. Beyond water’s natural force, human control over the presence or absence of water in the day to day can have an influence on life or death.

(diverting it, blocking access to it, evaporation, over-use, etc.),

It was the last exhibition I saw before I left the next day to Amsterdam. In the Netherlands it rained. There is not a day that I forget the rain. And I think that counts for many people in the Netherlands. In the exhibition the water started to look like shimmering liquid glass. This transparency, lightness, bubble, blob effect hypnotized me. I like it that water seems very close to glass. The transparency. The naturalness of the works gave me a feeling of calmness. Just as the organic essence. I wonder how this exhibition will affect people in the warm, hot summer months. It makes me realize how seasons can have a huge effect on experiencing an exhibition. This is also my critique on it. I believe the exhibition opening should have been in the summer or spring season. Then it would have had a more contrasting effect. Especially in a middle eastern climate. And next to that I hope future architects are able to design easy and futuristic water catching systems. I also hope the exhibition makes people reflect on their habits around catching rain. Because, catching rain can be like an art practice, something people can take responsibility for in their own households. So they are less dependent on what comes out of the tap. It made me realise also all the current water pipes I see in the streets of Jerusalem. Not as shiny and aesthetically as the copper water pipes people used to make. He made me reflect on my own habits to catch water, capture it and use it. Do I do it with enough care and craft? I started my morning with tears, of being exhausted of the changes around me. It made me realise today, catching water is a true craft. Even catching my own tears.

The water also made me connect with the old patients from the “lepra” hospital. At that time the doctors thought it was, like “Corona” contagious. It is so sad to realise how stuck and full of fear of their health these people must have been. Being in quarantaine in this hospital. Just as my colleague now, in quarantaine with her whole family for two weeks in her house in Jerusalem after visiting Italy. Where will this contagious virus take the world?

Water and health are interconnected. The artist managed to show this tight tension and let the water dance, like I never saw the water dance before.

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