Art strikes back in Herzliya

The Herzliya Biennial includes an eclectic and eccentric array of art, theater and dance productions.

Luther Hampel art 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Luther Hampel art 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The principal art exhibition of the upcoming Herzliya Biennial – the third to date – goes by the provocative title “The Second Strike.”
On the face of it, that seems totally anathema to the very essence of art.
Surely, we are talking here about creative endeavor and the quest to produce emotive beauty. The young artistic director Ory Dessau’s comments on the event’s website ( don’t provide too much comfort, either.
“The title of the exhibition ‘The Second Strike’ is taken from the vocabulary of bilateral strategic doctrine,” explains Dessau. “The concept emerged during the Cold War, and it refers to the capability of a country that has been surprised by a nuclear attack to launch a nuclear strike of its own, despite the devastation it will have suffered. The concept of a second strike bears the potential for mutual destruction, the very possibility of which creates a balance of terror that can forestall the use of nuclear weapons in advance and prevent any other kind of attack as well.”
So what have all the paintings, sculptures and installations got to do with a country’s ability to smash its attackers to smithereens? “’Second Strike’ is about the way artists reflect reality through their work and how life responds to works of art,” explains Biennial supremo and Herzliya Museum director Dalia Levin.
The grand Herzliya arts event has matured over the years and, for the first time, features works by foreign artists as well.
“We wanted to focus on Israeli artists to begin with,” says Levin, “but this time about one-third of the works are from abroad. At the Herzliya Museum, we tend to marry works by local and international artists, to show that we are not some kind of cultural ghetto in Israel and that we open up to the rest of the world.”
The local roster includes a topnotch lineup featuring the likes of provocative artist Avner Ben-Gal, multidisciplinary artist Gili Avissar, Bezalel teacher and author Zvi Goldstein and post-modern creator Yaakov Mishori.
The foreign contingent includes Albanian video artist Anri Sala, New York-born Berlin-based painter Jordan Wolfson, German-born Los Angelesbased painter, sculptor and video artist Friedrich Kunath and Polish painter Wilhelm Sasnal. There are only 38 artists in this year’s list. “We have gone for quality rather than quantity,” declares Levin.
The artistic creations will be displayed at various venues around the city, including, naturally, the Herzliya Museum and all sorts of spots out on the streets and even one ex-territorial location – Mani House in Tel Aviv.
The Biennial program also includes four outdoor theater and dance productions, including the id – Identity of the Soul performance artwork from Norway, directed by Norwegian theater and film director Thomas Hoegh. The work is based on Henrik Ibsen’s poem “Terje Vigen” and Palestinian Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish’s “A Soldier Dreams of White Lilies.” The id combines music and poetry together with film projected onto five screens and has been narrated across the globe by the likes of Vanessa Redgrave, in English and acclaimed actor Jean Rochefort. Gila Almagor fills the narrator’s role in Herzliya.
Elsewhere, Herzliya will come alive with the sound of music all over the place. At least 14 bands and ensembles will play rock, jazz, ethnic and classical music and pop, between 6:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. at various locations around the city every evening, with stages set up on Chen Boulevard, Sokolov Street and the Cinematheque plaza. The Cinematheque will also hold screenings that reference the theme of “The Second Strike” exhibition.
On the dance front, there is a Swiss- Israeli co-production of the Machol Shalem Dance House and the PENG! Palast theater group from Bern, Switzerland, called The Holy Coaster (s)Hit Circus, which examines various political and social issues through the mixed media amalgam of theater, dance and cinematic elements.
Herzliya Biennial producer Yehuda Ben-Ezra says that he and his team have pulled out all the stops to make the Biennial an event to remember.
“Of course everyone goes to Tel Aviv, but we have to try just a bit harder to bring people to Herzliya. I think the public will find plenty to enjoy and feed off during the Biennial.”
Ben-Ezra has also done his best to facilitate the public’s access to the various items in the program and alleviate traffic congestion, with a bus shuttle service operating between the train station, soccer stadium parking lot and the center of the city each evening until 11:30 p.m.
For more information about the Herzliya Biennial: