25 mei 2019


In 2015 Metropool International Art Projects initiated and produced the artistic-philosophical project On Friendship/(Collateral Damage) in which the claim of the Judeo-Christian origins of European civilisation is questioned. In 2017 the follow-up On Friendship/(Collateral Damage) II: The Guardians of the Door took place at De Nieuwe Kerk, Stedelijk Museum, Joods Historisch Museum  and Goethe-Institut in Amsterdam, an artistic critical project on Luther and 500 years of Reformation. On Friendship/(Collateral Damage) III – The Third GaLUT: Baghdad, Jerusalem, Amsterdam is part of this multiannual project.

On Friendship/(Collateral Damage) III – The Third GaLUT: Baghdad, Jerusalem, Amsterdam is an aesthetic and poetic research into the cities Baghdad, Jerusalem and Amsterdam, which has been conceived by artist Joseph Sassoon Semah and curated by Linda Bouws. All these cities are said to have been tolerant at some time in their history, but how does that relate to 'otherness' and what does it mean today? The project focuses on two lines of thought. The first is what Semah called 'The Third GaLUT', the third Exile, a metaphor for disconnectedness.

The second is 'The Guest', he who is allowed to live and work in a foreign context tests his surroundings the very moment he articulates his particular position in exile without any reservations. The Guest becomes Host. By this process Semah investigates one of the greatest achievements of human civilisation: hospitality. Joseph Sassoon Semah translates his cultural and visual heritage and its subtext into contemporary art. While doing so he reassesses and redefines lost heritages.

For this project Joseph Sassoon Semah designs a new series of drawings and scale-sized architectural models of houses, cultural institutions, synagogues and Jewish burial places in Baghdad from before 1948, that refer to their rich history. At all 36 locations there will be an architectural art-model on show for at least a month, and activities will be organised with the partners.


Architecture in Exile: Between graveyard and museum sphere. Sketch of Ezekiel's Tomb and the Meir Tweig synagogue. Size: approx. 1.30 m length, 50cm width, 50cm height, wood and thread. The architectural models are placed on trestles. Drawings, ink on paper, thread, A3 format.

Artist Joseph Sassoon Semah was born in Baghdad (Iraq, 1948), as one of the last of a Babylonian Jewish family lineage, the grandson of Chief Rabbi Hacham Sassoon Kadoori (1885-1971). Kadoori was the head of the Babylonian Jewish community and preached of peace between Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Baghdad once was one of the most diverse an tolerant cities in the world. The Babylonian Jews in Iraq were one of the oldest and historically seen, the most important Jewish community. The Talmud Bavli was compiled in Babylon and during the British mandate in the 1920s, the well-educated Jews played an important role in public life. But from 1948, the year of independence for Israel, life for Jews in Iraq becomes extremely difficult.

Between 1950-1952, 120.000 - 130.000 Iraqi Jews were transported to Israel. The displaced Baghdadi Jews were forced to leave behind their culture and possessions in Iraq. Semah, together with his parents was displaced to the State of Israel in 1950. His grandfather Hacham Sassoon Kadoori refused to leave Iraq and stayed in Bagdhad until his death. His experiences in the Six Day War (1967) and the Yom Kippur War (1973) resulted in Joseph Sassoon Semah deciding to leave Israel: in this context he calls this a 'self-imposed exile'.

As a Babylonian Jew who emigrated to the West (Amsterdam), he is part of GaLUT (Exile), an endless cycle of diaspora and return. You long for your country of birth and search for a way to relate to your cultural heritage and traditions. Heritage reminds us of our history.

Using cities as open books

In Iraq there are no memories left of the once so important Jewish Babylonian community. The Jewish Babylonian culture has been destroyed three times: in Iraq, in Israel, but also in Europe it barely plays a role. Although buildings have limited meaning in certain periods, they live on in the soul. Or could it be that spiritual resource that once was the reason for creating such buildings finds its own way and lives on in the intellectual 'world heritage' of our times?

Although there are no Jews living in Iraq and their culture has long been overlooked in Iraq, Israel and Europe, their culture cannot be ignored. A return to the culture and identity they lost in these countries. Joseph Sassoon Semah refers to it as 'Architecture in Exile'.

In On Friendship/(Collateral Damage) III - The Third GaLUT: Baghdad, Jerusalem, Amsterdam, Semah shares his lost rich Babylonian cultural heritage and asks the public to review their own art, culture, traditions and identity. This will take place mainly in 36 public locations in Amsterdam, whereby we expect active participation and representation by the different parties involved.  Using the city as an open book for participants and the public.

There will be, as already stated, new pieces of art, performances, debates, lectures, round-table discussions, video-interviews, a publication in English, articles on diverse platforms, a research - and a video-report. Simultaneously in Amsterdam, Baghdad and Jerusalem a small house will be built: MaKOM in MaKOM. The project will translate the cultural heritage of Baghdad, Jerusalem and Amsterdam, with the help of different 'Guests', into a meaningful experience for a broad audience.

On Friendship/(Collateral Damage) III – The Third GaLUT: Baghdad, Jerusalem, Amsterdam:

Lumen Travo Gallery (September 7 – 12 October 2019), 17.00 p.m.

Start of the project. Solo Exhibition On Friendship / (Collateral Damage) III – The Third GaLUT: Baghdad, Jerusalem, Amsterdam Performance. A space in the Gallery will function as the Project's office and information center and offers the opportunity for organising small-scale events (lectures, readings and dialogue meetings).

Advocatenkantoor Bynkershoek (from September 9), 20.00 p.m.

Art and meeting.

Goethe-Institut Amsterdam (from September 12), 20.00 p.m.

Art, performance, symposium with Keynote Speech by Dr. Yael Almog (Goethe University, Frankfurt):

Goethe's West-östlicher Divan. What was the meaning of the book in Goethe's time? What role did the East play for Goethe? How can we reread the West-östlicher Divan in light of contemporary polemics on migrants and refugees? Can we relate this work to Israeli emigrants to Europe like Joseph Sassoon Semah?

Aslan Muziekcentrum (starts September 15)

Art, repetitions with pupils 'ritual form by Semah', several performances.

UvA, Department of Hebrew, Aramaic and Jewish Studies (September),

Art, lessons in the module 'Culture and Catastrophe, German Jewish' Joseph Sassoon Semah and Prof.dr. I.E. (Irene) Zwiep.

UvA, Faculteit des Geesteswetenschappen (September),  

Students, dr. A.S. (Anna) Seidl and Joseph Sassoon Semah will visit the Stedelijk Museum, to view the collection of the museum from an 'outside perspective'.

Private home of Prof. Mr E.J. (Egbert) Dommering (from September 19),

Art and a performance, a meeting with professionals will be organised, with an introduction by Dommering: 'What is this supposed to mean?' (language of the lecture is in Dutch).

Gallery ARTTRA (from October 5), 17.00 p.m.

Art & Lecture.

De Domijnen in Sittard (October 11 2019 - January 2020)

A large retrospective exhibition of work by Joseph Sassoon Semah will be organised including activities in 3 churches.

Oude Lutherse Kerk (from October 13),

Art, performance and dialogue with representatives from several communities ((language of the dialogue is in Dutch)

Podium Mozaïek (from October 17),

Art, performance including Aslan Muziekentrum, Rick Vercauteren, art historian/publicist & Joseph Sassoon Semah, dialogue 'Architecture in GaLUT' (language of the lecture is in Dutch).

Kunstenaarsboekwinkel Boekie-Woekie (from October 19), 17.00 p.m.

Art, performance, lecture On Friendship / (Collateral Damage) III: The Third GaLUT: Baghdad, Jerusalem, Amsterdam.

Het Veem (from October 25), 20.00 p.m.

Art, performance, lecture about 'Exile and the Free State' (language of the lecture is in Dutch).

Embassy of the Free Mind (October 31), 19.00 p.m. 

Lecture Joseph Sassoon Semah: The meaning of the Black Square, Black upon white in the memory of the Destruction (the destruction of the Solomonic Temple in Jerusalem) and The meaning of Tetragrammaton and Pentagrammaton -a.o. Kazimir Malevich, Bartnett Newman, Marcel Duchamp, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Johann Reuchlin (language of the lecture is in Dutch)

De Hermitage (from November 2), 19.00 p.m.

Artwork and House MaKOM in MaKOM on the bleachfield, lecture and openings performance Night of the Museum.

Amsterdam Museum (November o.i.),  

Art in the Statenzaal, guided tour 'new narratives'.

Vrijmetselaars Stichting Amsterdam, Blauwe loge (from November 3), 14.00 p.m.

Art, performance, dialogue between Joseph Sassoon Semah and Jan Treffers (VSA) about the use (and origin) of symbols and the never to be completed process of building the temple of King Salomon.

(language of the lecture is in Dutch)

Moskee Al-Kabir (from November 10), 15.00 p.m.

Art, performance and dialogue with representatives from several communities (language of the lecture is in Dutch)

Locus Solus (from November 16), 17.00 p.m.

Art, performance; Joseph Sassoon Semah provides a framework for Artists Practice in Residence, a place where artists rule.

Hilton Hotel (from November 17), 15.00 p.m.

Art, performance, film screening 'Remember Baghdad', director Fiona Murphy, 2016, 69 min. A Spring Films and Echodocs Production. Special Guest- Edwin Shuker, 2016, 69 min.

Iraq's last Jews tell the story of their country.

Anne Frank Huis (from November 2), 15.00 p.m.

Art, performance, symposium with Joseph Sassoon Semah & writer-poet Mati Shemoelof (Berlin), both of them Baghdadi Jews living in Europe: The Babylonian Jew in the West, The West in the Babylonian Jew: Re-Thinking the concept of GaLUT,  Re-claiming the lost Culture.

Joseph Sassoon Semah, a Baghdad-born artist who now lives and works in Amsterdam, is about to embark on an extensive multi-site project, in Amsterdam, Jerusalem, and Baghdad. Berlin-based poet and author Mati Shemoelof talks with him about his years living as an artist in Israel versus being a Babylonian Jew and an artist in Europe. They discuss Judaism, diaspora, exclusion, and acts of concealment and building.

Architectenbureau Jowa (from November 28), 17.00 p.m.

Art, lecture Jowa I. Kis -Jovak After a musical prelude and reading of one of the Songs of Travel Jowa I. Kis -Jovak will briefly speak about being in exile, an emigrant and carrying a mix of cultural identities. Followed by a conversation with Joseph Sassoon Semah about house / home / place, integration, assimilation and on friendship.

(The event will be held in English).

UvA, DIA (from  December), 17.00 p.m.

Art, performance, symposium with Keynote Speech: Professor Ella Shohat (Departments of Art & Public Policy, Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University): Re-thinking the concept of GaLUT: Re-claiming the lost culture. With special attention to the Babylonian Jews from Iraq with their rich tradition. Co-referent: professor dr. I.E. (Irene) Zwiep.

Kunstenaars sociëteit Arti en Amicitiae (from December 3), 20.00 p.m.

Art, performance and lecture 'The Third Exile, then and now'.

In 1993 Joseph Sassoon Semah organised 'The Third Exile' in Arti (including a publication with the same name edited by J.A.G.M. Rutten and Joseph Sassoon Semah), Explorations along the borders of architecture, art and philosophy of science (language of the lecture is in Dutch).

Vrijheidspaleis, previously AORTA (from December 6)

Art, performance with previous AORTA-artists.

Former Burgerweeshuis van Van Eyck in Amsterdam, BPD Ontwikkeling BV (from December 10), 20.00 p.m.

Art, display of works by Joseph Sassoon Semah from the BPD art collection, public guided tour ARTTRA, and a dialogue between Joseph Sassoon Semah and Sharon Oldenkotte-Vrolijk, (director Art & Culture): 'Architecture in Exile' (language of the lecture is in Dutch).

Austen & co b.v. (from December 12), 17.00 p.m.

Art, lecture Steve Austen: 'Cultural heritage: tangible and intangible heritage' (language of the lecture is in Dutch).

Stichting Makkom (from December 18), 15.00 p.m.

Art in the display window of the former art-center Stichting Makkom  (Joseph Sassoon Semah and Hedie Meyling).

Schaakwinkel Het Paard (from December 18), 17.00 p.m.

Art in the display window and performance.

Ton's autohal (from December 16), 17.00 p.m.Art.

Rijwielhandel Oud -West (from December 17th), 17.00 p.m. Art.

Redstone (from December 20)

Art, performance and lecture (The city of shelter)

Joods Historisch Museum (from December 20)

Art, dialogue between Emile Schrijver (general director JCK) and Arie Hartog (director Gerhard-Marcks-Haus, Bremen).(The city of Shelter)

(language of the lecture is in Dutch)

Joods Liberale Gemeenschap (end of December)

Art, performance, and conversations with representatives of various communities  (language of the lecture is in Dutch).


An English-language Artist-publication On Friendship / (Collateral Damage) III – The Third GaLUT: Baghdad, Jerusalem, Amsterdam (approx. 200 pages, including images) is part of the project.

With contributions by:

Joseph Sassoon Semah, Professor Ella Shohat, NYU Tish School of the Arts, New York, Rick Vercauteren, art historian/publicist, Mati Shemoelof, writer and poet, Margriet Schavemakers, artistic director Museum Amsterdam, former curator and head of education, interpretation and  publications Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Arie Hartog, director Gerhard-Marcks-Haus, Bremen, Linda Bouws, director Metropool International Art Projects.


Metropool International Art Projects

Contact: Linda Bouws


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