Dispatch Three from Jerusalem
After six days of pretty intensive studying and learning, we all needed a little break. For Hartman, a break means an educational tour. Instead of sitting in an air-conditioned room and listening to a lecture, we would embark on tiyulim/tours to learn about things first hand.
I chose to participate in what was dubbed Protest Art In Israeli Society. I think a better name for it might have been just Street Art in Tel Aviv. In the morning, we arrived early in Tel Aviv. After living in Las Vegas for ten years I finally know what they mean when they say, “but it’s a dry heat.” I would take 105 degrees in Las Vegas over the humidity we experienced walking the streets of Tel Aviv any day of the week.
We met up with Muriel Cohen, a street artist who would be our guide through the Florentine neighborhood in Tel Aviv. She has several pieces in place around the neighborhood and knows all the other artists that use the walls of the community as their canvases.
Muriel’s “tag”, that which she is known for, is to take a phrase or a sentence and create the work around it. Others have different tags. In fact a guy who calls himself “#Tag” has a theme of contrasting social media and classic art. For instance, in these pieces:
He titled the first one “Napoleon Conquers Childhood” and the second one, “History Influencers.” There are several different art mediums that are used, some within the same piece of art work. For instance, in this piece by Muriel, she uses the phrase, “We are slaves to the machines we build ourselves”. The actress in the forefront of the piece is Theda Bera, who played Cleopatra in the silent film of that name. She is surrounded in the work by actual pieces of technology that we find ourselves saving, unable to get rid of it because we think we may one day need it. It is a combination of paper art and pieces of technology glued to the wall and surrounded by stenciled images spray painted on the wall.
In case you are wondering, putting this art on public walls around the neighborhood is technically illegal. But lately there has been a hands-off approach to art like hers. In fact, she does her work in the middle of the day, slowly in full view of the public and sometimes the police.
One of my favorite pieces of the day was one that showed the dialogue between citizens and artists that takes place once a piece goes up on a wall. This was also a piece by Muriel:
If you take a close look, you see that she started with the sentence “Even Santa Deserves A Toy.” She was trying to be seductive. Someone came along and added, “women are not toys.” Later, someone added, “they’re animals.” Still later someone crossed out animals and wrote “mammals.” I will leave out what someone scribbled in red over the word Santa. Muriel did not mind this happening. For her people engaging with her art, as long as it does not deface the actual art, is part of what this is all about. She has a problem now because, all though there is a general understanding among artists that you cannot come in and put your work over someone else’s work, nor can you deface someone’s work, several of her pieces have been damaged. If you look closely at the eyes of the Santa and the woman you can see that someone has drawn a line through them. The same person crossed out the part of her signature on the bottom that includes here social media information. He has done this to several of her pieces. She knows who it is, and has even confronted him about it, but he continues to harass her. Sadly, there is nothing she can do.
It is not just spray paint and paper art glued up on the wall. Here is an example of an artist who used metal as his medium.
Even synagogues are not immune to the art. This one, has “Na, Nach, Nachma, Nachman, Na,” the chant of the Bratslaver Hasidim, spray-painted on the side of the building. They left it there because they liked it.
After the tour of the art on the streets we got to hear from an organization that is trying to bridge the gap between the wealthy and the underprivileged in Tel Aviv through acapella music. They are called Voca Tikvah. You can hear some of their music on their youtube channel here.
The day finished with a visit to the Museum of the Land of Israel in Tel Aviv (not to be confused with the Israel Museum in Jerusalem). We were there to see an exhibit entitled “The Map, Reading Between the Lines.” The exhibit was made up of artists different visions of what a map is, all using the “map” of Israel as their subject. If you are in Tel Aviv I highly recommend a visit.
Then it was back to Jerusalem where I got to meet up with one of our own MKT members, Eve Wellish (daughter of Kent and Janet) who is doing an internship this summer in Israel.