curated by Eyal Danon
The artists' presence in their works is a conspicuous element that defines these works as a type of personal journey, albeit one which is not engaged in introspection, but rather in looking outward, at our surroundings and at the impossible, elusive reality around us. The personal stand and presence also indicate skepticism regarding the very ability to formulate a fundamental position vis-à-vis the local occurrences without relying on direct sources or a direct encounter with the people and events, but rather by intervention in them to the point of their modeling.
One may describe such an act either from a technical perspective or as an intra-artistic discourse. Such a reference, however, misses the broader social and cultural meaning of the phenomenon. We are witnessing a repudiation of the dependence and habit of absorbing information through life's ordinary stations – kindergarten, school, army, media, various forms of entertainment, etc.
The artists' presence in their work and their active intervention in creating the reality presented to the viewer – via conversation, provocation or editing – is so rare in Israel's social milieu that it calls for attention. The defiance and directness of the act of artistic intervention confronts the viewer with a problematic situation where he must make a decision, take sides, choose between the artist and the person facing him. As a viewer taught to identify with the representatives of authority – not out of aggressive, brutal coercion, but rather through education for a shared fate and out of tribal partnership dictated by a clear definition of 'us' and 'them' – it is disconcerting to watch a soldier, a policeman, or any other security man being directly attacked by an artist; on the other hand, the challenge introduced to the viewer clearly addresses this very point of identity and identification – can we use this "loophole" which the artists open for us in order to view the occurrences from a different point of view, from the perspective of a different identity? Furthermore, altering the traditional power relations and role definitions of photographer and photographed subject, documenter and reality, calls upon the viewer to make a change and try to adopt a new role for himself within his reality.
Avi Mugrabi "Details", 2004
The artist's and artwork's trespassing occurs on two levels: the first is the artistic level where the lines between the documentary and the artistic are crossed, transcending the boundaries of role definitions within the given power relations between participants; the other is the social level where some prohibitions are still observed, which have pushed aside all critical reference to the place of the army and police or the social disciplining processes by which we abide, preventing any undermining of their authority.
The question that remains open is: how will this delicate, highly intricate and ever-so-local role playing be received elsewhere, by viewers who are not familiar with the definitions being distorted and the changed roles presented to them.
"Artists without Walls (April 1st)", 2004 (19:30 min)
"April 1st" documents an action that took place in April 2004 on the location of the Separation Wall in Abu Dis, a Palestinian village located in East Jerusalem.
A closed circuit of two video cameras was positioned at the same spot on either side of the Wall. Each camera recorded the view facing away from the Wall. The cameras were connected to two video projectors, each one projecting in real time the image on the opposite side. This created a virtual window in that spot of the Wall, allowing people on both sides to see each other.
"Artists Without Walls" is a permanent forum for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians engaged in all fields of art and culture. Through nonviolent and creative actions, Artists Without Walls seeks to eradicate the lines of separation between Palestinians and Israelis.
Avi Mugrabi "Details 3&4", 2004 (9 min)
Two scenes filmed in the Occupied Territories. Both scenes show a direct contact between the photographer and the soldiers. In the first one the soldiers attack him and in the second one he attacks them.
Annan Tzukerman "Anxious Escapism", 2005
Anxious Escapism is the second part of the piece Yearning for Consolation which deals with Annan Tzukerman's attempt to be embraced by Israeli society, and thereby expose his power relations with the place to which he clings. All is fair. He utterly lacks documentary ethics, and during the process he situated himself outside the system of social conventions.
Annan tries to settle in settlements in the West Bank ("Judea and Samaria" as the settlers call it) with little success, until he develops an obsession which brings him to the Gaza Strip pullout protest site opposite the Prime Minister's office. In the course of the journey he transforms into a wild settler, in fact "crossing the lines" between himself and his hosts. The ease with which the ideological gap is erased tells a great deal about the diversity and openness to the "other" in Israeli society.
Ruti Sela and Ma'ayan Amir "Beyond Guilt#2", 2004 (18 min)
The work documents meetings arranged through online dating services, in a hotel room. The randomly invited people spontaneously engage in contact with other guests and with the artists.
Sela and Amir continue with their interest of revealing young Israeli society through the use of sexual games, role exchange and direct intervention. The mixture of erotism and militarism is the strongest attribute that characterizes the group of people they meet.
As usual with their work, Sela and Amir intensify the dynamics and tension between them and their guests by becoming active participants in the event. The portrait of a "Young Israeli" being drawn here is actively exposed with their aid and falls into the made-up struggle area created in the hotel room in which all familiar concepts and hierarchies such as director/protagonist or photographer/photographed are broken.
Ruti Sela and Ma'ayan Amir "Alei Zahav", 2005 (5:30 min)
The work was spawned by the video Beyond Guilt #2 taken in a Tel Aviv hotel room, which documented an encounter between the directors and men who answered an online dating ad. One of them, ER-77, from the Alei Zahav settlement in the West Bank, came armed. Sela and Amir followed him back to his settlement, creating the current work which takes place in two locations simultaneously, in Tel Aviv and in the settlement.
Nira Pereg "Souvenir", 2005 (5 min)
Nira Pereg, along with Jean Michel Bolima Amesi, a political refugee from Congo residing in Israel, takes a virtual tour of Kinshasa, Congo while wandering in different areas of Tel Aviv.
The work consists of two parts: one includes excerpts shot during the tours of the virtual Kinshasa in Tel Aviv; the other comprises excerpts from studio meetings where Bolima Amesi told Pereg about the moment in which he discovered that he had been mistaken about the man he theretofore thought to be his father.
The speaker's voice influences the city shots, generating a disturbance of sorts to the image which links both parts finely. Another interruption occurs while listening to the story recounted in four languages: English, Lingala, French and Hebrew. The story is told while shifting between these languages, thus leaving anyone who does not understand the language spoken at a given moment with "gaps in the storyline".
Unlike other works in this program, Pereg's place as an artist in the work process and in the final product is somewhat different. While in this instance there is also role exchange, Pereg takes a much more passive role, letting the protagonist of her work lead her – while walking in her own city – on a tour in his city, thus losing control over the work. Once the exchange has been made, Bolima Amesi can create the reality presented to the viewer with her help.
Ruti Sela and Clil Nadav "loopolice", (2003), 6:55 min
(Usti nad Labem, Zagreb, Istanbul, Iasi, Graz, Sofia, Holon, Novi Sad, 2005)
In their current work Sela and Nadav arrive at a police station in order to file a complaint about a stolen video cassette. This time too, the occurrence is radicalized since the artists position themselves in a double role: they complain about a violation of the law and at the same time break the law, thus challenging the policemen in the station to examine the boundaries of their role while simultaneously exploring their own boundaries. In passing, the video exposes the repetition underlying police bureaucracy and the accidental nature of the law.