Heara 4 - Big Comment

Dec 26 2002

Old Central Prison of Jerusalem - Underground Prisoners Museum

Open Letter to Mrs. Suzanne Landau, Mr. Igal Tzalmona and Dr. Noah Avriam, curators and director of Artfocus 4

Lea Mauas, Diego Rotman (Sala-Manca)
'Studio' - Art Magazine', April, 2003, pp. 6-7
April 15 2003

Artfocus 4, the Biennial of Contemporary Art, will take place in December 2003. The Underground Prisoners' Museum in the Russian Compound in Jerusalem is the chosen central site of the Biennial events. The choice of this site led o a change from the original location of the event (near the old railway station of the city). This change in the planning and the turning of Artfocus' organizers to The Underground Prisoners' Museum occurred just two days after the visit of Suzanne Landau and Yigal Tzalmona to "Heara 4 – Big Comment", the contemporary art event that took place at that same venue in December 2002 .1

"Heara 4" included performances, installations, paintings, sketches, sculptures, music, photography, and sound works. The event was the first of its nature at this location and the third organized by the magazine Hearat Shulayim and Sala-Manca Group . It took place without any official support or sponsorship, through the curators' choice (see the undersigned) and with the agreement of the participating artists. It represented a part of the opening up of alternative, contemporary spaces, far from the artistic establishment.

Choosing the same site for the Biennial is, in point of fact, borrowing from Heara 4. According to Dr. Noah Aviram, the general director of Artfocus, the project will deal with a "loaded historical dimension, an urban texture, and the numerous contexts that the site proposes combined with an up-to-date art that uses a contemporary medium" . These words are surprising in their unquestionable resemblance to the concept of Heara 4. Curating is the utilization of a specific space; it is an artistic act that cannot be discounted. As the visitors to Heara 4 were well aware, this was a site-specific event, in which the artists were asked to create works related to diverse aspects of the site - historical, architectural and political; these touched on the historical and geographical significance of the site, located as it is next to the detention centre of the Russian Compound, and on the seam between the two sides of the city. Like Heara 2 and Heara 3, Heara 4 was "an artistic comment on the space, the location and the harsh reality", as it advertised itself in the press.

More problematic than the lack of originality exhibited by of the Biennale's organizers is the lack of acknowledgement of the fact of this "borrowing" from the organizers of Heara 4 and its participating artists. The undersigned are pleased to be a source of inspiration for the fourth Biennial of Contemporary Art as a place for artistic exposure, but protest the Biennial organizers' methods of operating. These indicate a lack of awareness and of recognition, and a failure to cooperate with artistic activity, which takes place outside of the official artistic institutions. They thus suppress the traces of independent artistic activity, by controlling the working methods and the curatorial activity (including the choice of site), instead of conducting a dialogue and encouraging mutual support and the blooming of the local culture.

We openly ask, with this letter: What are the moral rights and the rights stricto sensu of curators and organizers in borrowing a concept from another event? What are the consequences of these kinds of actions in the forming of Israeli art? What are Artfocus' limits in using political and economic force? And what authority do those in positions of power within the artistic establishment attribute to themselves?

Sincerely yours,

Lea Mauas, Diego Rotman
SALA-MANCA/Hearat Shulaym

N.B.: Three months after "Heara 4" and after submitting a request to the Underground Prisoners' Museum to use the site, the representatives of the Biennial have not yet turned to the organizers of Heara 4 to notify them of the adoption of the concept.

1 - In "Heara 4 – Big Comment", an eight-hour long event, more than sixty artists participated and there were more than 900 visitors. "...It was one of the most amazing and exceptional alternative artistic events on the local artistic map...all art enthusiasts would do well to follow this phenomena, particularly in Jerusalem,where the group penetrates the soul of the city like a dybbuk, revealing different and unusual elements every time. ", Ouzi Tzur, Culture and Literature, Haaretz, 10.1.03.

2 - See: Dana Gilerman, Mussaf Galeria, Haaretz, 13.12.03.

“Eara 4 : a big comment”: for the issue of “earat shulaym 4” from the group sala-manca (Lea Mauas and Diego Rotman), underground prisoners museum, Russian compound, Jerusalem.
January 10 2003. (Hebrew)

Go to the Jail
December 20 2002. (Hebrew)

Margins in the Center
December 20 2002. (Hebrew)

“Eara 4 : a big comment”: for the issue of “earat shulaym 4” from the group sala-manca (Lea Mauas and Diego Rotman), underground prisoners museum, Russian compound, Jerusalem.
January 10 2003. (Hebrew)