"Ursulimum", 2011 [Trailer]

Ran Slavin / Ursulimum

A new buried futuristic history is recovered 88 years from now, under the old city of Jerusalem.
A mysterious young boy, discovers unknown architectural spaces and patterns that lay buried underneath the old city of Jerusalem. An unknown past is being recovered.
Vast layers of underground interiors unfold through huge architectural shrines built by an unknown force or machine while a disorder in time is building up.
The Third Temple which is know to never have been built, is possibly found, built in secrecy, in the form of a particle accelerator.

A historic and futuristic exploration is set out, kaleidoscopic architecture, bizarre domes and atriums suggesting archetypes of temples on the one hand, machine and alien future form on the other.
Materials that have undergone a self employing system of data reproduction. Illusive hovering lights, mutated and endless interiors, nano relics, all abandoned.

Through a breach in the Well of Souls under The Temple Mount,  The small explorer, possibly a modern day Seraph, now travels deep underground into the magnetic underground force fields. 

A city called Urusulimum is the first reference to Jerusalem in ancient Egyptian records, in 1330 BCE.
The oldest part of the city was settled in the 4th millennium BCE, making Jerusalem one of the oldest cities in the world.
During its long history, the city has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, captured and recaptured 44 times.
When new emperors conquered the city, they built streets on top of the existing ones. Layers and levels of undiscovered quarters still remain buried to this day. 

Media: HD video file
Length: 18:30 minutes
Limited Ink Jet print edition
Exhibition at Givon Gallery, 35 Gordon st, Tel Aviv 27/10/2011 - 10/12/2011


On Ran Slavin
By Naomi Aviv

A gaze spins slowly in a gradually penetrated gilded architectonic space. A sequence of geometric models self-replicates and expands, like a sunny supernova, into an ornamental spectacle of a temple
or a spiritual site. Images solidify into heavy, spiritual, medieval, gothic symbols. A soft soundtrack emerges from afar and gradually intensifies. A thin ding-dong of bells merges with the calls of a muezzin,
absorbing growls that echo in spaces whose size is difficult to estimate. A gleaming colliery of objects that burn in the light like a hidden treasure of jewels and gems. “Ursulimum”.

Since the 1980s, Ran Slavin’s visual-musical bent has been gradually honed into what can be called “tourism in the third domain”. A semi-scientific semi-religious crusade to what may be either a futuristic
reality or a primeval dream. A journey aimed at exploring the secrets of the collective memory of a place which is at once site and space, consciousness and time, sound and image, reality and fiction.
The intended, though always breathtaking vagueness, results from a work of digital composition that stitches together the mythic and the magical, the historical and the esoteric, the factual and the speculative,
the archaic and the science-fictional.

Most of Slavin’s projects suggest a kind of intuitive hovering that simultaneously records and broadcasts, receives and transmits sights and signs and a sea of signals seemingly sent from stars whose light continues
to shine millions of light years after having been extinguished. What is revealed in his works is often mediated for us by a heavenly creature – a bird, a pilot, an astronaut, an alien or a seraph, a kind of angel
or winged cherub who plays the role of a reflexive flaneur – a kind of intergalactic Walter Benjamin. Slavin – an active musician, a thriving artist and a skilled video editor – also comes across as a conspiratorial
narrator who is no older than the alien who invades his latest work, “Ursulimum”. As a narrator he also seems to have long been filling the shoes of the Swiss writer Erich von Däniken (“Chariots of the Gods”),
who in the name of modesty claims that human civilisation began in the wake of a visit to Earth by aliens more intelligent than us.

About a decade ago we became acquainted with a new definition for art that is being made today, in the age of surfing in virtual spaces. Relation Art is the name given by the French curator and critic Nicolas Bourriaud
to the new aesthetic with which Slavin can also be associated; an aesthetic which takes form under the influence of the technological frenzy attached to the ever-more-advanced means of communication.
These contemporary technologies are capable of launching us at the stroke of an application into anonymous spaces, summoning for us all kinds of organic yet bodyless encounters that hold the potential of a relationship
or a relatedness. Bourriaud insists that what is common to these artists is the desire to communicate through the artificiality of the traditional channels of time and space – be they physical or institutional.
Whether the internet reports to us about activities related to this trend, or whether the internet is used as a form of “plotting” or plot-creating act – speaking about this art is as elusive as its products,
which are mostly inspired by photography and cinema, and are based on a screenplay, on writing and language, on various models for weaving a plot or telling a story which is, primarily, a material with wonderful
plastic visual potential.

Exhibitions that deal with what is called Relation Art and artists who are called Relationists (to relate - etymologically to recount, to tell) use computers and cameras in order to rummage disorientedly in a past buried
in the depths of the cybernetic archives. Twenty-first century Aporia. These artists tame ancient storytelling practices, reviving legends and strewing them with findings from inquiries into events that occurred or did not,
sailing on their elusive backs towards a sublime utopia. Slavin joins these romantic storytellers’ return to the adventure novel, while being aware of and amused by the stereotypes which form an inseparable part of the
narrative process. Beyond the plot, which often tends towards the exotic, the nostalgic and the picturesque, it seems that what motivates Slavin is the search for the new or renewed sublime, or the attempt to establish
a post-colonial cosmic justice before which we shall all stand agape with amazement: “the step towards the beyond” as a political, social, aesthetic, longed-for and unifying experience.
In “Ursulimum”, his latest work, Slavin’s style soars to an aesthetic peak. His favourite topics are combined into a dense and glowing recital. Visual and auditory landscapes carry the viewer to speculative regions
of history-archaeology and science-fiction. Detective puzzles gape open in the depths, panoramic labyrinths peer out from among gilded architectonic structures, canals and corridors are organised into elusive
ornamental patterns of an unknown tribe and are caught by an electronic eye launched from somewhere in space and somewhere in the pre-biblical past. It is a breathtaking vision that was apparently buried under
the Old City of Jerusalem and is exposed here for the first time.
The vision is ascribed by Slavin to a curious 7-year old boy, perhaps a robot, who lands on the Temple Mount wrapped up and insulated in an astronaut’s suit. There, under the site sacred to both Jews and Muslims,
the gaze of the angelic boy scans vast and bizarre underground structures, and he starts moving among sacred relics and altars of an unknown civilisation, architectonic machines and mutated futuristic sites.
“Ursulimum” refers to the first mention in Egyptian scriptures of the Old City, which was perhaps built more than 3,000 years ago, but who can count the number of times it has been besieged, attacked,
conquered and laid to waste. For the sake of this film Slavin, equipped with a video camera and a sonar sensitivity, made several nocturnal visits to the dark city, based on the assumption that every ruler who conquered
Jerusalem built new streets on top of the old ones, and that every excavation reveals another layer. The film’s plot introduces the cherubic astronaut to a breach near the Well of Souls under
the Dome of the Rock – through which he reaches kaleidoscopic sights and electrifying patterns hundreds of metres below ground, wandering in magnetic fields which are none other than machines or nano-particles captured
by a huge particle accelerator which turns out to be the secretly built Third Temple.
When the boy arrives at the flickering centre of the Temple, which is none other than the vast accelerator, he opens his helmet for the first time and reveals that he is blindfolded and is now doomed to walk in the dark
and carefully feel his way around a foreign reality and in soundscapes of growling machines.
The soundtrack also functions as a temple, a space that allows audio surprises to break through, background rustles of large undefined spaces to reverberate, and as yet unmarked territories to appear.
The layered sound acquiesces to Slavin’s defamiliarisation of the steam- and heat-stricken visual data, tying them together; they too undergo countless processing measures that expropriate and distance them from the origin,
simulating a planetary, alternative, experimental journey. A journey designed to place reality within different proportions and enable a new and beautiful view of the “temple” situated in a place as contentious
and as hallucinatory as Jerusalem.

October 2011