Jonah’s Whale, 2014

hand-sliced shipping container / Israeli settler caravan / Palestinian construction site office.



Speaking to the divine origins of debt and marking a daring contribution to the history of the ready-made, Jonah’s Whale, a shipping container once used as an Israeli settler caravan and later repurposed as a Palestinian construction site office, stands in eleven cross sections, carefully hand-sliced through layers of steel, gypsum, insulation, wires, carpets and a mattress in what is a complex palimpsest of power and commerce. The structure is striking with a subdued horror in its beauty. These are not the cuts of an enraged man though they do betray a degree of unrestrained violence, but rather the work of an obsessed surgeon searching for the cause of a disease, or that of an archaeologist carefully examining the petrified corpse of a creature yet to be catalogued. 

In relation to the wandering tribes this altered structure raises questions about permanence, nomadic traditions and borders. A shipping container that becomes a settlement engages in becoming permanent but slicing it implies re-entry into circulation. This landlocked, modified shipping container, opened like a set of Venetian blinds, sheds light on itself and on the Palestinian landscape it is instrumental in shaping, in unexpected ways. Here tired distinctions of interior and exterior collapse.

In the Book of Jonah a great whale swallows the prophet whole for defaulting on a promise made to God. While in the belly of this great fish Jonah pleaded for forgiveness and vowed to repay his divine debt.  After three days and nights, God commanded the whale to spew Jonah out. But how shall we escape from the pathological debts that hold claim on our lives? Who shall give the command to spew us out?

To get below the surface of things here required cutting. I am interested in the cross section that reveals its own stratification… decay… unexpected multiple views… a reintegration of exterior and interior. The surface is not inert. Containers here are layered with so much history and patina. The one I have is inscribed with children’s sketches,  Russian, Hebrew, Arabic, English, showing the traces of its journey from container to Israeli caravan to Palestinian construction site, all with resonant stories of promise, default and debt. I felt compelled to slice it into sections, installments of sorts and then, it dawned on me... the ribs of Jonah’s whale.

 Nida Sinnokrot 2014