Lies and Falsehoods: Jerusalem Design Week

The deceitful and cunning serpent has been humanity’s persistent companion as early as the Garden of Eden and continues to murmur in our ears long after we were cast out. Lies and falsehoods have accompanied us since the dawn of history, if not earlier, as evident by the numerous trickster gods and deceitful spirits of the ancient world: Loki in Norse mythology, Anansi in the tales of the Ashanti people of West Africa, the Monkey King Sun Wukong in Chinese mythology, Iktomi in the traditions of the Lakota tribe of the great plains of North America.

Human beings, of course, do not need supernatural tricksters to fill the world with lies and falsehoods. Our distinct tendency to lie is laid out plainly throughout the Bible: Cain lies to God about the fate of his brother, Abraham lies to the Egyptians about Sarah’s identity, Jacob lies to his father to gain his brother’s birthright blessing. Although lies and falsehoods have accompanied human civilization since time immemorial, it seems that they are currently proliferating at unprecedented levels. The digital age has brought with it a comprehensive challenge to the concepts of trust, authenticity, and truth; fake news, deepfakes, fake images, and disinformation have all become commonplace.

The 2023 Jerusalem Design Week sets out to examine the designer’s role in these contexts, through works that explore the importance of illusions – works that conceal, deceive, and create parallel realities – as well as through works that deal with disclosure and honesty by exploring the possibility of truth and authenticity in the face of widespread lies and falsehoods.

Since 2017, the “Matchmaker” project has focused on Jerusalem’s creative forces, its local designers, and the diverse crafts that shape its landscape. This year’s exhibition has called for an exploration of the hidden aspects of Jerusalem, offering a unique experience of the city: A city of urban legends, personal stories, different cultures and communities, memories and souvenirs, past and present.

The designer pair behind the project, Noa Rich and Yochai Alush, chose to explore the design week’s them, lies and falsehoods, through “multiple truths,” rather than falsehoods. They current “Matchmaker” project delves into local urban legends, connecting an urban building, a local designer, and a storyteller. The building serves as the physical setting for the plot to unfold; the storyteller is the craftsman who bears the personal memory; and design bridges the gap between the verbal narrative and the world of forms and materials, creating new imagined souvenirs that capture the essence of place, story, and time.
Shahar Kedem, curator of the exhibition ‘Over Stuffed,’ seeks to provoke thought on the human urge to collect and organize, and to reflect on how the truth we commemorate becomes the only truth. When do human interventions in nature constitute acts of documentation, and when are they acts of imitation? How authentic can such interventions hope to be? What else do we seek to borrow from nature and incorporate into our living environment in our attempt to simulate the great outdoors—indoors? Are we seeking to restore that which we have already destroyed?

It is an invitation to wander through spaces of imagined nature and engage authentically with its artificiality, and artificially with its authenticity. The exhibition showcases 12 works by designers and artists who respond to these questions, alongside works on loan through a collaboration with the Natural History Museum. “One of the most typical expressions of the human attempt to imitate nature, to domesticate and regulate the wild, is taxidermy: An attempt to buy that which is ownerless, to freeze the moment, to control and halt decay. The craft of taxidermy combines commemoration and preservation, association and appropriation, wildness and domestication, commemoration and preservation, belonging and appropriation, the wild and the domesticated,” Kedem explains.