Night comment on oranges and compasses
May 19 2003
The artistic event of the group Sala-manca that took place Thursday evening in Jerusalem was one of the most important, refreshing, interesting and gladdening artistic event in Israel since “Artfocus” in 1999.
Four events of that kind took place in the last years. Sala-manca’s event, that notes the fifth issue of the quarterly magazine of contemporary art “Hearat Shulaym”, lasted only one night, and this short intensive occurrence amplified the magical feeling. The entrance fee was 30 NIS, and it was the only source to cover the event’s expenses. Among the 1200 persons that bought tickets, were the regular faces in the artistic events and also a large public, that was given the opportunity, thanks to the event, to encounter the young contemporary action.
The event took place in the Sergei Hostel, building located in the Russian Compound in the city centre. The hostel includes a courtyard and within, two towers, a fountain and a garden, which are surrounded by two-storeys buildings. It was founded in 1890 as an hostel for Russian rich pilgrims and nobles. At the end of 1917, after Jerusalem was conquered, the British occupied the Russian Compound, and during the Mandate, the building was used by British officers. In 1964, following the agreement between the Israeli and the soviet government, the properties of the Russian church passed in Israeli hands, and Israel paid for these goods with money and oranges.
Today, the place is used by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the civil administration and the Agriculture Ministry. It is a magic and very beautiful area, that seems borrowed from another country, very different from the frantic landscape of the city centre, dirtied because of the strike. This impressive and foreign appearance contributed a lot to the look of the exposed or performed worked.
Sala-manca’s members are Lea Mauas and Diego Rotman, two artists who immigrated from Argentina eight years ago. The two of them organized and curated the event in a real alternative way – which is rare in Israel – without any support nor institutional or commercial sponsorship. More than 60 artists participated to the event, following an open invitation that was transmitted by e-mail. Most of them aren’t famous; some graduated from Art schools, and some didn’t go through the conventional curriculum. Relatively few of the names of the artists were known, and among them, Adva Drori, who displayed an installation in her home in Tel Aviv, and works with the Rosenfeld Gallery; Assaf Romano, who already won some prices for his works but who isn’t displaying works in a regular way; Hagar Goren, who participated recently in “Video Zone” and to the exhibition “Israeli Object”; David Behar-Perachia, who displayed lately in the Israel Museum; the poet Efrat Mishori; Jan Tichi, who displayed recently in “Time for Art” in Tel Aviv; and Rona Yafman, who works with the Noga Gallery and who displays works regularly. Pesach Slabosky, who created a sculpture in the site with a group of artists, is the most famous artist among those who participated to the event. None of the young artists who belong to the main scene in Tel Aviv and receive massive financial support from official funds, galleries, museums or the lottery enterprise (Mifal Hapais) participated to the event.
The freshness of the performances, the efficient staging and the production aroused admiration (all the videos and the sound worked, and the timing of the performances wasn’t modified), and proved to what extend working without the establishment is possible. Such an event enlightens the discussion on the question of the independence of the artistic statement and of the state’s commitment to support it (a question that was raised recently following the Gershoni affair and the Israel Price), and reminds the artists of the possibility to work without the Establishment. The event contradicts the claims it is the political, security and economical “situation” that prevents a greater and more magnificent artistic development.
It is in the nature one-time big events located in exceptional sites, both in Israel and abroad, that the charm of the place inspires also works that are less good. But in Sergei courtyard, a lot of the works were good, even excellent, without link to the place. The most important concentration of works could be found in the building were the water commission offices of the Agriculture Ministry were until three years ago. When the offices moved into new dwellings, the previous ones were abandoned. Inside one can still find instruments such as photocopiers, refrigerators, carton files full of documents, maps, diagrams and fans – as if the workers had left only for a moment.
The excellent work of Hagar Goren used this strange atmosphere for a very inventive work, in which compasses dance on the floor (by virtue of small motors) and a slide projected on the open fridge shows part of the lower portion of the body. Assaf Romano “planted” pictures of plants from government offices in one of the offices of the building. The couple “Sala-manca” created “the bag of perpetuation”, a fax work that disappears thanks to light exposition, like the whole event. The installation of Adva Drori, “15th of May, 1948”, deals with the Palestinian “Nakba”: a television film on the “Nakba” was projected in a room where the carton files were emptied from their shelf, then the shelf was flooded with feathers.
Shachar Marcus made one of the most impressive performances: four people dressed in noble clothes (from an undefined historic period) squeezed oranges that were heaped on a board between them, and under this board, in the bath of juice, lied Marcus, naked. The scene – that makes reference to “Drowing by numbers”, from the director Peter Greenaway– succeeds in relating to the history of the site, its cruelty and its violence (today, it is still located in front of a main prison), and to the strange agreement according to which a building was bought in exchange for oranges.
Some of the works presented outside reminded an infinite number of similar festivals in the close or far past, but there were also brilliant ideas, among them, the video work of Eden Oprat, who presented a young girl either swimming or sinking in the bottom of a well, and refers to the terror and genocide regimes on the one hand, and to the legends dealing with wells on the other hand; the performance of Josef Sprinzak, who told an allegoric story about a bull who refused to fight in a “corrida”; and the sound work of P6 (Rafi Balbirsky and Moti Berger), which included a video and within, fragments of horror and pornographic movies, and video clips.
The next event will take place in another three months, and it will also last one night, as an artistic comment that flickers and disappears in the space, time and period.
Night Comment on Oranges and Compasses
May 19 2003.
In Prince Sergey's Courtyard
January 26 2004.