Bar'am National Park in Israel contains both the remains of an ancient synagogue and the ruins of a Palestinian village. The architecture of the synagogue is restored as the central structure of the park, while the remains of the Palestinian village—a closed military area—are restricted and neglected. The existing architectural fabric on site does not reflect a consolidated agenda of preservation but rather a political policy of occupation and discrimination by turning the history of demolition of the agrarian Palestinian land into a seemingly pacified site of national heritage. The village descendants are allowed to enter for ephemeral activities, which they use to perform social and artistic activities on site.
The study examines a series of site-specific installations of a contemporary artist and architect, a descendant of the villagers, on site. Through their inherent impermanence and nonrecurring characteristics, the art interventions succeed to break through the fixed boundaries of the dominant heritage and allow hidden layers to surface. We analyze the art practices in light of recent preservation theory. In the context of an intractable national conflict, we further argue, such participatory action opens venues to discuss preservation as an act of civil rights, which challenges the official history as an alternative creative-performative model of preserving heritage.