The Book Binder
Lived and Worked in Jersualem
Site-Specific Installation, 2014
When I first encountered the bookbinding shop of Mr Persekian, which was later turned into a gallery, I was extremely impressed. It had a strong soul of its own, and gave away many clues about who and what had lived in this space. It was as if the workshop could speak by itself about its humble and virtuous life, a life that started and ended fighting all the difficulties an unstable geography brings.
My project is an homage to a craftsman/bookbinder who skilfully tried to keep his books, as well as his life, bound together on such slippery ground, with all its migrations, wars and changes of regime.
On The Bookbinder
Gülsun Karamustafa's work reanimates a bookbinding shop by rediscovering traces of the past. Karamustafa customises the shop by uncovering and adding old information with new materials. The echoing memories of the place are also carried by and with the visitors; they can be old friends of the shop or newcomers, sharing unspoken memories within the space.
This page contains some extracted notes by Karamustafa made during the research and production phases of her project. Her collage sketches, found diagrams and drawings are part of the installation.
Extracted from Gülsün Karamustafa's Notes
1. The shop will be cleaned, painted white and kept as it is.
2. The walls on both sides will be painted grey (1 metre height from the floor and 1 metre stripe to place the bookbinding images (as shown in the sketch).
3. The Paper Cutting Machine will be placed centrally in the middle of the shop.
4. Two windows will be kept untouched but cleaned. Two pots of symmetrical green plants will be placed in them and Mr Persekian's books and boxes will be displayed (as many as possible).
5. The signboard bearing the name of the shop and the project will be printed and placed in front of the shop as shown in the sketch.
6. The text will be produced and applied on the red painted panel…
– The text to be placed on the wall:
Lived and Worked in Jerusalem (1920-1988)
Mr Persekian was an Armenian Catholic. He was a bookbinder and a box-maker in the Christian Quarter. His grandfather was a baker with the Turkish army, the job that brought him to Jerusalem. Mr Persekian was born here and at an early age was run over by a cart on his way to school. As there was no penicillin to prevent infection, his leg developed gangrene and had to be amputated. He became a bookbinder because his parents considered him an invalid, incapable of physically demanding work. Offered a choice of tailoring or bookbinding, he chose the latter. He started working as a bookbinder from the age of 13 and opened this shop in 1950. He had several Arab assistants; the longest serving was Faraj Nasrallah.
His professional work was thus dedicated to the act of binding, but he also spent a lifetime trying to bind his ideals, traditions, friends and family. Given the slippery geography on which he was living, this task – binding a life together – was not an easy one.