If there’s one region of the world and a country in particular where the notion of fear permeates everyday life on both a personal and collective level these past forty years it must be the Middle East and Israel. With no wish to take a political stance, this programme has been pieced together in the hope of illustrating how a wide variety of Israeli born artists have and are continuing to address their personal and collective fears. The final choice was far from simple, as artists and filmmakers like Avi Mograbi, Doron Solomons, Dana Levy, Boaz Arad, Nurit Sharet, Lior Shvil, or Guy Ben-Ner to name but a few could easily have had their place.
Aside from the pertinence of these works in the thematic context of this year’s Werkleitz festival, these videos and films also highlight the unmistakeable quality of contemporary Israeli artistic practice. A mini-panorama, in which – and entirely unmediated – all the works have been made by women; women at different points in their careers, with radically different artistic points of view and means of portraying them. Maya Zack’s background in drawing, theatre design and installations is beautifully evident in her film Mother Economy which has been screened in many museums, galleries and festivals around the world. Nira Pereg, winner of the 2010 Gottesdiener Prize for Israeli art, is attached to real events in the manner of a documentarist but with the eye of a psychologist writing aural and visual poetry. Sigalit Landau who will be the next Israeli representative at the Venice Biennial in 2011, has produced several works exploring the landscape of her native homeland as a performer. The core of these works is based on centrifugal movement, whether it be floating in a coil of green watermelons in the Dead Sea (Dead Sea, 2005), Day Done (2007) where she’s painting and erasing a black circle, or “playing” the hula hoop naked with barbed wire. Over the past ten years, Karen Russo has created an intriguing body of work oscillating between drollery and mysterious underground (literally!) support of social deviants. As JJ Charlesworth wrote in Flash Art, “Russo’s work, whilst it refuses any simplistic engagement with politics, nevertheless bears witness to such tensions in contemporary reality, of its paranoid refusals and its deepest, most unsettling anxieties”. Yael Bartana, who aside from her acclaimed installation, Summer Camp, at the documenta XII, has recently had exhibitions at Hau 1 in Berlin and the Moderna Museet in Malmö. Mary Koszmary is the first work in an as yet uncompleted trilogy, followed by Wall and Tower (2009), in which Yael Bartana has moved away from exploring the myths and rituals binding Israel together to examine 19th and 20th century European history and the homelands of the Ashkenazi Jews.
This programme would have been incomplete, intellectually and visually, if it wasn’t for the two examples of footage, selected amongst several hundred, provided by the remarkable Camera Distribution Project, initiated by B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. Over 100 video cameras have been distributed to Palestinian families living in high-conflict areas. This cadre of trained individuals, with a majority of adolescents film daily and not-so exceptional incidents in real time both as witnesses and victims. The resulting footage has proved to be a powerful strategy in documenting the Israeli government and military policies that continue to violate fundamental human rights in the Occupied Territories.
Please see www. btselem.org for further information (or to make a donation!).
- Mother Economy, Maya Zack, IR 2007, 35mm transferred to video, col, 20 min
- Sabbath 2008, Nira Pereg, IR 2008, video, col, 7 min
- Playground, Malki Tesler, IR 2008, video, col, 8 min
- Settlers at the Door – Hebron, B’Tselem, Camera Distribution Project, IR (Palestine) 2006/07, video, col, 6 min
- Barbed Hula, Sigalit Landau, IR 2000, video, col, 2 min
- Candy House, Karen Russo, IR 2004, video, col, 8 min
- Mary Koszmary, Yael Bartana, IR 2007, col, 11 min
- Ruin and Humiliation – Qalqilya, B’Tselem, Camera Distribution Project, IR (Palestine) 2008, video, col, 3 min