Migration: Earth and Sky

Earth and sky is irrigated by disparate fields of research viewed through the geographical prism of a specific region, the Hula Valley in northern Israel. The first body of research belongs to Professor Yossi Leshem, a renowned zoologist whose groundbreaking work tracks and analyzes with radar technology the migration patterns of birds flying through the skies of Israel. His delineation of exact flight routes and vectors has developed a new way of looking at migration and has contributed to extensive collaborative conservation efforts in the region. In a series of works on paper soaked in pigment, abstracted radar maps include minute markings in newly formed color schemes and create circular clusters of motion and direction. The scientific artifact turns into a visual one, reminiscent of celestial maps on the one hand and abstraction’s language and logic on the other both in image and sound.

 Whilst the mapping of migratory movement is captured in color and line in the drawings, the data analysis and numbers are all channeled into an immersive sound installation that is an auditory counter-part to the series of radar drawings. Harking back to avant-garde practices that translated sound into image and vice versa this project brings this conversation of mediums to a new location of data visualization and analysis.

What starts as an audio diary of scientific research evolves into a cumulus of voices, filling the exhibition space with data on velocity, vectors, and the echo signatures of clouds, hills and birds, enveloping the listener in an avalanche of crunched numbers.

 Venturing into the environmental factors that support the birds in their migration routes the work zooms in on the Hula Valley marsh, an area that it essential for bird migration as a resting and feeding spot and therefore also central to Leshem’s work. Ornithological research leads to another body of knowledge, that of the cultural and environmental history of the Hula Valley before the state of Israel was formed, and before the marshlands were drained, one of the biggest Zionist projects of the 1950’s (which generated a local ecological disaster of its own including chemical runoff, large peat fires and species extinction). 

Since the 19th century the area was populated by bedouin villages of the Ghawaraneh tribe whose economy, architecture and domestic life relied on the abundant papyrus reeds growing in the swamplands. The tribe was well known for its crafts throughout the region and used two distinct styles of loom: one for fine mats for interior use, and a second producing longer, courser mats which were used for constructing huts and shelters, tools, tables, saddles and a myriad of other objects.

In 1948 more than 30 beduoin villages were reported in the Hula Valley. Briefly afterwards the villages were depopulated and the local craft techniques of weaving, building and constructing with the local papyrus plant were lost once they moved away from the natural resources that provided the materials for there work, economy and domestic environment.

A third body of knowledge - a complex knowledge of construction and craft, passed on by tribe members, was lost with this forced move from their living environment and abundant natural resource. No artifacts are left to conserve, no museum offers a material glimpse into this body of knowledge, or the objects, domestic environments, and aesthetics it generated.

A series of “research sculptures” and works on paper focus on this history through partial views and pieces of archival photos, Xeroxed research papers and drawings.  Each object is captured only in the sphere of language through the pieces’ titles.The papyrus handmade rope that appears as a leitmotif throughout the show was woven by a craft conservationist especially for this project, and was produced adhereing to these regional techniques of harvesting, drying, and weaving.