Nira Pereg / Patriarchs

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  • Talbot Rice Gallery, Old College
    South Bridge
    EH8 9YL

Nira Pereg’s (b. 1969 Tel Aviv, Israel) multi-channel video installations are anchored in a documentary practice that both reveals and questions conflicting behavioural protocols that co-exist in spaces of geopolitical, religious, ideological and ethical significance.

Pereg’s The Patriachs Trilogy (2012-2022) follows the resonant biblical motif of intergenerational ‘birthright’ as it is embodied by the pilgrimage site ‘Cave of the Patriarchs’, the shrine known to Muslims as Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi (‘Sanctuary of Abraham’) and to Jews as the Cave of Machpelah (‘Cave of the Double’). This Herodian structure is a sacred site - second only to the Temple Mount for Islam and the Western Wall for Judaism, making it a place contested and revered by both religions. Jewish and Muslim practitioners share the site through a complicated arrangement that came into being in 1967 following Israeli occupation.

The exhibition displays the first two parts of Pereg’s trilogy: ABRAHAM ABRAHAM SARAH SARAH (2012) and ISHMAEL (2015). Both works follow an implementation of spatial division established in 1994 by the Israeli authorities after a Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Muslim worshipers while they were praying in the mosque. The site has been physically divided, so that worshippers of each religion are strictly kept apart. However, ten times a year, as dictated by each religious calendar and under close Israeli military control, the site passes hands for 24 hours only, enabling each side to have full use of all the chambers of the cave.

ABRAHAM ABRAHAM SARAH SARAH (2012) quietly observes the entire space as is converted into either a mosque or a synagogue. ISHMAEL (2015) is a four-channel work filmed on the same site and observes the more complex system built around daily prayers. It follows a Muezzin — who calls prayer to a mosque — as he traverses the building necessitating Israeli military supervision.

Nira Pereg emphasises the performative qualities of routine activities in the cave that touch upon the link between ceremony and territory, bringing forth a reality that is far from the general public’s awareness, revealing the complex way in which systems pertaining to religious belief, social norms and politics intertwine.


Nira Pereg (b. 1969 Tel Aviv, Israel) spent the 1990s in New York, where she received her B.F.A from Cooper Union. On her return to Israel, she graduated from the Bezalel M.F.A studio program in Jerusalem and has been exhibiting and teaching in Israel and internationally ever since. Pereg’s works have been collected and exhibited at the Centre Pompidou Paris, PS1 New York, Hirshhorn Museum USA, HDK Berlin, KW Berlin, ZKM Karlsruhe, The Israel Museum Jerusalem, Haus Der Kunst München, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and LAX L.A, and Tate Modern. She took part in various international platforms such as the Shanghai Biennial of Art, Sao Paulo Biennial of Art, and Architecture Biennale, La Biennale di Venezia 2013 and 2018.