Gabi Kricheli shares thoughts about his project, “It’s About Time,” and his desire to change how future generations think about our contemporary world.
The project, It’s About Time, aka I.A.T started unexpectedly. I was in downtown Jerusalem, not far from the old city wall, minding my own business, when I felt a push on the back of my left shoulder. For a moment I thought it was a terrorist attack or something of sort, at the second push I turned around and face it. In front of me was a sloppy, probably delusional, mid-forties, ultra-Orthodox Jewish man. He was standing very close to me, pointing his finger to a home printed photo of an ancient coin, a Shekel, he claimed, from the First Jewish–Roman War, the time of the first rebellion of the Jews of Judea against the Roman Empire. He was using it to engage me in a conversation about his life before and after his revelation. The coin was proof of the righteousness of his new life quest, to re-build the Temple. I don’t know why, but this incident got under my skin. I was reliving it while driving back home, and for some reason the more I thought of it, the more angry I got. The traffic was horrific, so I had plenty of time to think about it. By the time I was back in Tel-Aviv, I knew what to do. My plan was to produce fake archeological artifacts and coins, creating a different narrative from the one the Bible tells. And then, I would conceal the fake evidence in several archeological sites in and around the old city of Jerusalem. Just to mess with them.
After a long research process, I realized that it is next to impossible to produce an object that can pass as an authentic 2000 year old relic, and it is also very illegal, and the consequences of such an act can be very serious.
What to do?
Maybe a different approach was needed. Instead of faking the history maybe I could change the way future cultures will understand our present time. If future cultures will believe that in 2016, God revealed himself and ordered everyone to stop this madness, clean the earth and settle down —maybe they will have a better present then the current one. I thought that faking and hiding relics of a fabricated contemporary culture for future archeologists to find could bring about a better future.
I wanted to find a way to produce objects that can survive as long as possible and that will carry some kind of signature that indicted the existence of a false society somewhere in the end of the second millennium . The point was to make them in a distinct technique and design that can only be the product of an advanced and peaceful civilization. Everything today is so cheap and disposable and most of our culture is virtual, I thought to make objects that will outlive our civilization by doing the opposite. I decided to use ceramic, its cheap and easily available, simple to handle, and if properly fired it can last forever. But more important, we are accustomed to viewing historically authentic ceramic objects in museums so I assumed using this material would make the fake ones more believable.
I stared from zero, learning ceramics from youtube, using materials that I found at a dumpster just outside my studio, and building a wood fired kiln that was hot enough to make clay into ceramic. I’m an expert in fires, but this process was time-consuming and expensive. Each object took 6 hours to create, using 20kg clay chunks that were manually shaped into vase-like objects. I was trying to find an aesthetic language that reassembles several different past cultures but is still unique. Each fire took about 20 hours from start to finish, and I could only burn 2-3 pieces. The tricky part was to control the rate the temperature rises inside the kiln by controlling the amount of wood you feed it. You start very low, around 60 degrees Celsius, and then you slowly raise it, in the peak of the fire the temperature inside the kiln is around 900 degrees Celsius. I wanted to be sure the work came out whole, but actually my main concern at that point was that the whole thing wouldn’t explode.
I created a number of these false relics, and I needed to hide my objects in a way that will give them the best chance be perceived as real once they were found. I look at it as a message in a bottle for future civilization, but the message is fake and the bottle is too. I used several different approaches to distribute the objects, thinking that I can’t really know what is the best way to ensure they are found. I believe that I only need one object to be found and taken seriously in order to make a dent in future realty. I hid some of them in the desert not far from the place the the Qumran Scrolls were found, and I buried some in the woods around Jerusalem. I tried leaving object in places people can find them easily and I left objects in remote locations only to be found by chance. Eventually I realized that I am being foolish and it doesn’t really matter where I leave the fake relics. The object has the same chance to be found if I bury them just outside my studio.