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New Left Review 17, September-October 2002

Gabriel Piterberg on Daniel Monk, An Aesthetic Occupation. Imaginations of the Dome of the Rock and Wailing Wall under the British Mandate, and their political decontextualization today.



This ambitious excavation of ‘the career of architecture’ in the prehistory of the Palestine conflict was written between September 1996, when Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the opening of the ‘archaeological tunnel’ running from the Buraq, or Wailing Wall, to the Muslim quarter, and Ariel Sharon’s ‘visit’ to the Haram al-Sharif, accompanied by a thousand or more Israeli security troops, four years later. Daniel Monk’s aim is to explore the relation of consciousness to matter—to examine the projections, the representations, the mutually ‘interpretative performances’ through which the stones of old Jerusalem have, it seems, become so imbued with meaning that it is self-evident that such acts will result in ‘explosions of anger’, ending in bloodshed. It is this obviousness that AnAesthetic Occupation subjects to critical examination. In providing ‘a record of all the work that had to be done for the “archaeological tunnel”, or Sharon’s “visit”, to achieve their unquestioned political immediacy’, Monk sets out to undermine ‘the presumption that, in architecture, a political reality presents itself to view directly and without mediation’.

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Gabriel Piterberg, ‘Postcards from Palestine’, NLR 17: £3

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