University of Dundee University of Dundee
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18 January 2005

'Jerusalem Syndrome' opens at University

Photo opportunity: exhibition preview, 5.45pm, Thursday, 20 January, Cooper Gallery, University of Dundee, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Perth Road, Dundee.

Stills from the film are available on request. Please call Press Office on 01382 344768

'Jerusalem Syndrome', a new film and exhibition by Nathan Coley, one of Scotland's leading contemporary artists will open later this week at the University of Dundee. Commissioned by the University of Dundee's exhibitions department, Coley's latest work explores the phenomenon of 'Jerusalem Syndrome', a rare travel psychosis, afflicting people who find themselves intoxicated by the Holy Land.

The exhibition is in two parts, a filmed interview with Dr Moshe Kalian, District Psychiatrist of Jerusalem who has diagnosed cases of Jerusalem Syndrome, and a documentary film of three holy sites, the Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Temple Mount. The footage captures the daily lives of locals in Jerusalem as well as focussing on the behaviour of tourists who visit the holy city, to help give the audience an insight to this rare psychological condition.

'Jerusalem Syndrome' afflicts between 5 and 10 people a year who find themselves intoxicated by the Holy Land. Those affected can be found at holy sites, chanting, singing, and delivering sermons as if living in the time of Christ. Their behaviour can range from the benign, such as exhilaration, or a mild nervousness and anxiety, through to the destructive. In his interview with Nathan, Dr Moshe Kalian talks about his experience of treating people with the condition and his thoughts on why a small number of mainly Western tourists become affected with the syndrome.

By gaining access to areas of the city that are normally off limits to non-Muslim visitors, Coley captures the religious rituals and acts that form part of daily life in Jerusalem from the delivering of sermons to the kissing of objects of religious significance. In the background the sounds of the 'Holy City' run throughout the film with mosque callers and the shouts of street market sellers to the murmer of everyday life with mobile phones and car horns.

Nathan said, "Focussing on Jerusalem Syndrome has been an exhilarating experience. I have tried to capture Jerusalem’s unique relationship with different religions and hope that the film will encourage question and debate from followers of all faiths.

With assistance from the University of Dundee, it has been particularly meaningful to exhibit the work in Dundee, where I spent time as a fellow at the University’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design and now base my work."

'Jerusalem Syndrome' has been commissioned by University of Dundee Exhibitions Department and funded by the Scottish Arts Council, British Council, Angus Digital Media Centre and the University of Dundee.

Nathan Coley is one of Scotland's leading visual artists. His work explores place, identity, belief, often with reference to real world events. In 2000 he was the unofficial artist-in-residence at the Lockerbie trial before taking up the Henry Moore Fellow in Sculpture at the University of Dundee's DJCAD.

The exhibition opens on Friday 21 January and runs until 26 Feb 2005 at the University’s Cooper Gallery. Opening hours - Mon-Fri 9.30am-5.30pm, Sat: 9.30am-4.30pm.

The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Notes to editors

Reporters and photographers are invited to attend the exhibition preview on Thursday 20 January between 6-8pm, Cooper Gallery, DJCAD.

Research into 'Jerusalem Syndrome' has revealed that those affected are aware of what is happening to them. Although altered in state, those affected report that they do not hear voices or receive visions during their manifestation. On the contrary they testify that they know who they were, and perceive everything as normal during the episode. Afterwards they can remember all that had happened. The first sign of the condition is an inexplicable nervousness and anxiety coupled with a strong need to visit the holy places of Jerusalem. The second stage is often an act of purification where the person repeatedly washes themselves, shaving body hair and cutting nails. They then don white robes in an effort to resemble biblical figures - most often John the Baptist for men and the Virgin Mary for women. In one report 42 people out of the 470 studied had no previous psychiatric problems. Of that 42, 40 were protestant, whose family were strict and devout Bible-reading, mid American Christians.

Nathan Coley Profile:

This is the first the first time Nathan has exhibited in Dundee. His recent retrospective 'Nathan Coley' at Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, included a commission where the artist recreated 286 Places of Worship within Edinburgh.

Coley's first solo exhibition in London will open on 26.1.05 at Haunch of Venison.

University of Dundee Exhibitions Department profile:

The University of Dundee Exhibitions Department aims to actively commission and facilitate the generation of new work by contemporary artists. Nathan Coley's commission follows on from our artist residency in 2004 with Sally Osborn who we invited to respond to The University of Dundee's D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson zoological collection. Being located within Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, rated the third best art and design school in the UK in the Times League table 2004, Exhibitions Department reflects this position with an innovative programme of artistic quality working with artists of national and international standing. Our commissioning Nathan Coley to make 'Jerusalem Syndrome' reflects the scale and ambition of both Exhibitions Department and the University of Dundee.

For more information please contact Jenny Brownrigg, Curator on 01382 348017 or visit

By Angela Durcan, Press Officer 01382 344910, out of hours: 07968298585,