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How are artists influenced by the surroundings in which they live and how does their environment affect the work they create?
These are the primary questions asked by curators Nirth Nelson and Mati Peran in the "Passer-by: Barcelona Tel Aviv" exhibit on display in the Tel Aviv Artists' Studio. In order to answer these questions, four artists participated in an exchange that sent two Israeli artists to Barcelona and brought two Spanish artists to Israel.
For Doron Rabina, one of the Israeli artists who spent three weeks in Barcelona, the artistic process was completely reversed by the change in his surroundings. Instead of asking for a studio and creating art based upon a metaphysical idea, Rabina took a camera with him everywhere and filmed what he describes as "small dramas" of daily life in the city. In his capacity as a voyeur and not a tourist, Rabina was able to capture a series of events on film that were then edited into short segments called Detail 1 and Detail 2. In the first video clip, young tourists are caught on camera as they are being evicted from the beach by Spanish police officers; in the second film, Rabina edits a tramp's furtive masturbation in the city park.
"Instead of being an artist working in a studio, I went out to spy on the city and the locals within it from behind the lens of a camera," Rabina tells The Jerusalem Post. "I waited for things to happen and I explored dangerous areas on the edge of the city. It was a total departure from the way I normally work." Simply walking around the city and exploring, even loitering for hours at a time in one caf gave him a great sense of relief. "I didn't have to rush around and see the sights or spend every moment traveling from one famous Barcelona monument to the next. I just walked around with my camera. The permission to be a voyeur lent a powerful element to the artwork I created while I was there," explains Rabina.
Koby Levy, who also explored the question of what it means to be an Israeli artist in Barcelona, entitled his video and mixed media creation "All Earth: Traveling with Yosi Romano." In this work, a series of images (some of which touch upon his own personal identity, such as his Moroccan origins and an encounter with a Muslim butcher in Barcelona), form a patchwork of movement and migration. According to Peran, "All Earth" is a circular essay structured as a metaphor on mobility and understood as the twilight zone in which the very condition of the contemporary subject is fuzzily drawn. Peran adds that it is an exploration of the question "what can I do?" when exported to another location in which existence is strange yet touches upon elements of familiarity.
The two Spanish artists who came to Israel, Daniel Chust and Domenec, both base their conceptual work on architecture, using it as a means to view social realities in a new light. Chust, who created several small replicas of his Jerusalem studio and then presented them as gifts to the sponsors of the supporting programs, overturned the traditional role of artist and patron. In this surprising reversal, Chust is commenting on the economic aspects of creating art and the function that patrons of the art fulfill. He explains that he experienced a sense of emptiness after completing his art degree, and perhaps the choice to focus solely on re-creating and documenting his own studio in Jerusalem hints at another void in relation to both art and his environment.
Domenec, who originally wanted to investigate the Bauhaus architectural creations, found himself more fascinated by the numerous layers of Jerusalem than by the buildings in Tel Aviv. "Tel Aviv is like the paradigm of modernity, like Brasilia or Chandigar. Jerusalem is a pre-modern and post-modern city at the same time, with all the complexity that this entails," he says. In "Real Estate," Domenec tried to express both the large variety of houses in Jerusalem and what he describes as the "rootedness" or "unrootedness" of their surroundings. Instead of his usual architectural models, Domenec shifted to the printed image. The installation includes photographs of local dwellings-from the bulldozed remains of Palestinian homes to cramped Jerusalem apartment buildings and from settlements across the Green Line to Bedouin tents. Domenec also created a video series that explores Jerusalem's ultra-orthodox Mea She'arim residents before Succot, a Palestinian family whose home was destroyed, and the daily life of settlers living beyond the Green Line. His artistic endeavor highlights both the fragility and complexity of land ownership in Israel and the vast differences between social groups within Israel.
In each installation, the participating artists took a different approach to creating art in a new environment, and their answers to the question "what can I do as an artist abroad?" are as varied and interesting as the artwork produced.
The exhibit will be on display until June 16. For more information, call the Tel Aviv Artists' Studio: 03-683-0505