Micha Ullman

Observation, Israel, 2009

Iron, red sand Height: 143 cm, diameter: 40 cm

Artist's donation to Museum on the Seam

At first glance, the works of Micha Ullman seem to be simply what they appear to be – sculptures of rust, earth, and diggings. But there can be no mistake about the direct communicativeness of his works. Their inherent symbolism aspires to the minimal, and to subtleness in the expression of the idea.

“Lookout” is a commissioned work that Ullman made especially for the place where it has been erected, the lookout point of the Museum building, which during the 1950s and ’60s served as an army position overlooking the Israeli-Jordanian seam-line, located to the side of the historical Mandelbaum Gate, the only gate that connected the two sides of the city until the 1967 Six-Day War. Because the building was a border position, its window openings were blocked with concrete, and all that remained were the firing slits and the lookout, which have remained to tell the tale of hostility and suspicion.

Ullman has placed his work on the building’s highest point. From this point one can look out towards the Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall, and the roofs of the houses of the Old City to the south, the northern neighborhoods of Jerusalem, the hills where the tomb of the prophet Samuel stands high, towards the Notre Dame monastery overlooking the horizon line of the western city, and on the other side, the Mount of Olives and Mount Scopus that close the view from the east. This lookout point was the source of inspiration for the work, which has the form of a container resembling a head made of iron tin in the shape of a house lying on its side and revolving around its axis. This house/container is full of loam sand. Inside the building there are seven pipes that cross the head from one side to the other. On the outside – from in front, from behind, and from the sides – round openings can be seen: holes shaped like the seven orifices in a head.

The seven openings register information corresponding to the senses they represent, and serve as lookout slits through which one can view both the near and the distant surroundings, “A man’s eye is never filled during his entire life. And what fills it? A handful of dust” (Micha Ullman, quoting from Talmudic sources)” .