Doug and Mike Starn Make Jerusalem the City of Bamboo

The American identical twin artists unveil a new installation at the Israel Museum.

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“Big Bambu” in the Billy Rose Art Garden, Israel Museum.
“Big Bambu” in the Billy Rose Art Garden, Israel Museum.Credit: Elie Posner / Israel Museum

Following seven weeks of construction, “Big Bambu ” – an installation by the American artists and identical twins Doug and Mike Starn – is now available for visitors to climb and explore in the Billy Rose Art Garden at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum. The Starn brothers, working with an international team of rock climbers and an Israeli team specially chosen for the project, used 10,000 bamboo poles and 80 kilometers of climbing rope to create a structure-sculpture that covers 500 square meters of ground and rises 16 meters into the sky.

The Starns have been active on the art scene since the 1980s. Previously, they created similar installations on the roof of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (2010), at the 54th Venice Biennale (2011), the Museum of Modern Art in Rome (2012) and Japan’s Naoshima 
Museum (2013). Earlier this year, moviegoers could see their arkwork in Darren Aronofsky’s biblical epic “Noah.”

The Israel Museum installation is the largest in the “Big Bambu” series to date. In each country, the installation acquires form and character from the local surroundings and context in accordance with interaction among members of the construction team. There is no preset plan for the work. According to the brothers, it takes its form from the dynamics that develop in the course of the construction process, embodying the tension between order and chaos.

“Big Bambu” in the Billy Rose Art Garden, Israel Museum. Photo by Elie Posner and Mike + Doug Starn / Israel Museum

Dangling between heaven and earth, the team lashed the bamboo poles together and created dozens of meters of trails that wind through the “bamboo forest,” along with observation decks – each of which has its own character and offers a unique view of the surrounding Jerusalem landscape.

Visitors can make their way along the ground amid the bamboo tangle, or follow the trails and contemplate their unusual surroundings on benches that are scattered both on the observation decks and between them. In addition to the new sight lines of Jerusalem, the climb through the installation offers a view of the heart of the ramified, chaotic structure.

As the museum’s website notes, the work “raises questions about interdependency, relationships between the individual and the other, and the incorporation of differences within a unified whole.” This concept also underlies the artists’ name for the Jerusalem installation: “5,000 Arms to Hold You.”

In July, the installation will be part of the nightly activity at the museum, within the framework of the Jerusalem Season of Culture. There is a small additional charge for “Big Bambu,” and entrance is permitted from the age of 6 (children aged 6-13 must be accompanied by an adult, with a limit of two children per adult). It will be accessible until October 1, after which some sections will be sent elsewhere while others will become a permanent part of the art garden.