An experiential exhibition “Host and Guest,” opened May 2 at the Tel Aviv Museum
of Modern Art, curated by Steven Henry Madoff, self-styled “art critic, curator,
teacher and art historian, based in New York.”
Madoff, who recently
joined the board of Artis, a non-profit organization that promotes Israeli art
within the global community, “in order to be able to come back to Israel often,”
was invited to curate an exhibition by Rivka Saker founder of Artis, and by the
When he received the request he was visiting California, writing
a book at Stanford University and reading Jacques Derrida’s Of Hospitality ,
which inspired him to make the show an enquiry into the notion of hospitality
and its offshoots.
“This project is not a traditional exhibition. It is
an invention. There are nearly 40 participants, including artists, architects,
writers and philosophers. It is a huge project,” he says.
The first space
introduces Dora Garcia from Madrid.
Under the title “Exile,” she refers
to the situation in which the guest does not want to be a guest. The section
includes five other artists and is curated by Susanne Landau. There are nine
tables on which objects are exposed, things received by mail throughout the
duration of the exhibition; another table displays reference books on geography
THE NEXT space contains photographs of Beduin territory,
“the way they live, where they host, what they look like,” says
Guest curator Hou Hanru, from China, chose three Israelis and one
Chinese for his section of the exhibition: Micha Kratsman, Micha’el Zupraner,
Nir Evron and Liu Xiaodong. The latter toured all over the country, including
Ramallah and made 36 paintings, among them eight diptychs. Zupraner lived in
Hebron for two years and gave the Arab residents cameras to photograph their
daily lives. The result is 24 video tapes and other projects.
from South Korea. Her project, “A Needle Woman,” is a series of six videos,
filmed in six cities, screened simultaneously. She stands in every video, filmed
from behind, with the hundreds of people walking in the street captured as they
The Raqs media collective, composed of three artists from Delhi
who work together, reflects the concepts of host and guest in terms of language
itself. They offer live performances in Arabic and Hebrew. Additionally, the
works of Arab poet Ehsan Danish and Hebrew poet Yehuda Amichai are read aloud in
“They are using [English] the language of the previous
occupier,” says Madoff, explaining that this creates a symbiosis between host,
guest and occupier. The area hosts 20 metal frames from which hang 500 sheets of
paper with the poems printed on them.
Another section, titled
“Dis-placed,” highlights a video by Roee Rozen, The Confessions, in which
illegal workers who do not speak English read his works. “In a sense they are
inhabited by Roee Rozen, and are acting as ventriloquists; they speak him,” says
This space is the result of cooperation between Madoff himself,
Rozen and philosopher Raphael Zagury- Orly. Madoff began to write a text, and
then passed it over to the others to add to it, then back to him and so
“We each wrote a part, commenting on each other’s words, something
between a game and the Kabbala,” says the curator. “I ended up writing a play
and had it performed by a theater company in New York and then videoed. There
are no people in it, just objects talking to each other. I am making a political
point: Workers are objects, they are manipulated.”
This space hosts two
vitrines, one in turn hosting a button and the other a piece of thread, the two
main characters of Madoff’s video.
“It is about how we use objects to
animate and manipulate things. It is about the symbiosis between host and guest;
about being inhabited,” he says.
Other object/characters are a gun, a
bullet and salt shakers.
“Even the air speaks,” Madoff says. “The idea is
that in 1942 when the Paris Jews in Vel d’Hiver were taken [“hosted”] before
being sent to be gassed at Auschwitz, a [fictitious] little Jewish girl is
grabbed on the street, the button and the pieces of thread are pulled off her
dress. They roll into a corner and there is a dialogue between the button, the
thread and the corner.”
On the walls of this section are 13 quotations on
anti-Semitism and politics. Two light boxes display Eli Etel’s photographic work
on Palestinian prisoners and their jailors.
ELSEWHERE, DAVID Tartakover,
a major-league graphic designer displays a poster project. He has created four
different versions of images of suitcases, “with stamps, with maps; and 1,000
copies of these posters will be printed and given away for free,” says
On three days in May and another three in June, Joshua Simon of
the Bat Yam Museum will stage “Overtime,” a four-hour tribunal on the
exploitation of the cultural worker in which the public can participate, says
the American curator. “What is a cultural worker?” asks The Jerusalem Post. “I
am,” he answers.
Brazilian Ana Paula Cohen will screen six videos of
German, Danish, Brazilian and Israeli artists, and Madoff invited his longtime
colleague, Prof. Jeffrey Schnapps, co-director of the Berkman Center for
Internet and Society at Harvard, to come up with an online show.
the question is of borders,” says Madoff. “What if we can erase the borders?
This part is called ‘Ghost,’ it is a play on the name of the exhibition, ‘Host
and Guest.’ Then there are other words that derive from the same root…
‘hostile,’ ‘hostage,’ ‘hospital,’ all these refer to the host-guest complexity.
Sometimes there is tension between host and guest.”
Madoff’s hopes for
the exhibition are “to expose these hosted artists to an Israeli audience and
that these curators and artists have an experience and maybe invite Israeli
artists to their countries, that is my goal. My goal as a curator is to show
that there are many different ways. The exhibition is a living organism, it
changes all the time and the audience takes part. It is alive.”
whose first visit to Israel was only three years ago, has already been here 10
“I keep coming back because of the art community. The art
being made here I think is quite exceptional. It is very exciting and there are
many good artists I didn’t know.” He constantly visits studios and art schools
and believes that “this is a really interesting time for Israeli
“As a Jew,” he says, “I am engaged with what is happening with the
Politics are not black and white, says Madoff. “I wanted
to examine all the different notions, how people from different places see the
subject. I am asking a question, I am reflecting. I am engaged with artists and
thinkers.” His enquiry is about the notion of guests and hospitality. It
provokes “a thinking through.”