Outlining Jerusalem, the people, its streets and its checkered history

“The idea is to talk about the actual Jerusalem, of the streets and the people, not of big buildings or the history. Rather it is about the personal history of people from here.”

June 28, 2019 07:39
Outlining Jerusalem, the people, its streets and its checkered history

OR AND Moran Yogev’s salute to seminal children’s book, ‘Flat to Rent,’ written by Leah Goldberg in 1959.. (photo credit: OR AND MORAN YOGEV)


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Anyone familiar with the Steiner education philosophy may know that small children are often given little in the way of visual details, the idea being to allow them to complete the picture in their own mind. That, the Steiner folk contend, allows tiny tots to develop their imagination.

With that in mind, naming a festival based on illustrative works “Outline” seems like a pretty good call. The third annual event which, to give it its full titular run out, is called “Outline Festival for Illustration and Poetics – Illustration Week in Jerusalem,” is about to take place at various venues across Jerusalem, July 4 to July 11. The public will soon be able to judge for itself if the moniker does the trick.

“You could say it is a sort of way of inviting people to add content to the outlines,” suggest Noa Kelner, who serves as artistic director of the whole aesthetic shebang.

There will be much to see during the week, across styles, disciplines and takes on life, at locations – internal and al fresco – along the streets and alleyways of the center of the city. But is there anything specifically Jerusalemite about the art of illustration? Is there something we might identify as a Jerusalem style of drawing, or “a Jerusalem line?”

Kelner believes there is a locale-derived vibe to the Jerusalem Municipality-supported festival, which, she notes, emanated from a basic desire to feel she was not alone.

“It all began from the idea of establishing some kind of community,” she says. “I am an illustrator myself and illustrators often work on their own. Anyway, most illustrators live and work in Tel Aviv. We wanted something that signified illustrators here, in this city.”
That worthy collective cause is substantially supported by the inclusion, every year, of an exhibition of works by Jerusalemite illustrators in Outline. This year’s local showing goes by the name of Mavoi Tzedadi (Side Street) which, besides proffering the creations of 16 illustrators based in the capital, seeks to resonate the quotidian ebb and flow of life in these parts.

“This is an outdoor exhibition,” Kelner explains. “The thinking behind this was for the illustrators to think about an experience they had in Jerusalem, to write it out and then to illustrate it. Then they will place the illustration at the spot where they had the source experience.”

That sounds delightfully personal and entertaining, and also alludes to the festival’s declared illustrative and poetic intent. Much of the weeklong program feeds off a reciprocatory relationship between visual art works and the written word. It is a definitively street-level homey artistic endeavor nurtured by life in the city and local folklore.

JINDRICH JANICEK’S work will be displayed at the Marie Gallery on Agrippas Street, as part of the ‘Lustr’ exhibition from the Czech Republic. (Credit: JINDRICH JANICEK)
“We had a gathering of all the illustrators and we took them on a guided tour so they could hear stories about other personal experiences in Jerusalem,” says Kelner. “The idea is to talk about the actual Jerusalem, of the streets and the people, not of big buildings or the history. Rather it is about the personal history of people from here.”

In addition to Kelner, the Mavoi Tzedadi lineup features such Jerusalem-based creators as Yaniv Torem, Rinat Gilboa, Ofer Getz and Tiferet Sigala.

While Outline follows a largely local zeitgeist, Kelner points out that there is nothing parochial about the week’s proceedings.
“The festival is not just about Jerusalem. It also looks outward. As we know, people come to Bezalel to study and, after they finish their studies, they all leave – they go back to Tel Aviv, or move there.” Although she harbors no proselytizing ulterior motive, Kelner wants to remind them of their time here. “I am not looking to bring them back here to live, but to allow them to exhibit here, and have some connection with the city.”

JERUSALEM HAS always had a cosmopolitan element to it, with people drawn to it from all over, for religious, cultural or other reasons. Kelner says she and her colleagues were keen to have that front and center in the Outline agenda, as well as relating to less Jerusalem-centric matters. “There are general aspects to the program, too, like the exhibition on racism and the Terminal show.”
The latter loosely relates to late troubadour Meir Ariel, who died 20 years ago. The title of the show alludes to one of Ariel’s best known numbers, “Terminal Luminlet.”

All told, Terminal show takes in the works of 41 artists that will be displayed at the Pondak Hostel, on Sorag Street in the center of town.

“‘Terminal’ is the trigger, but the artists have free rein about how they interpret the word,” explains the curator Naama Lahav, although adding that Ariel’s iconic song will gain a little more exposure. “There will be a performance of the song [by Tomer Borenstein], and some of the lyrics will be referenced in several illustrations,” notes Lahav, a seasoned illustrator herself, who is contributing to the aforementioned Mavoi Tzedadi slot.

THE ‘Looks Like Rain on Thursday’ exhibition, at the Beita Gallery, in the making. (Credit: TSUR KOTSER

Terminal will be an intense affair, with some artists providing more than one illustration. That, says Lahav, will be taken into account when it comes to affixing the works to the hostel display space walls. “It will be a bit of a beehive-shaped show,” she says.
One gets the impression that energy levels will be running high. That suits Lahav.

“The hostel is a busy place with a young clientele and people coming in and out the whole time.” That will come across in the range of approaches to the Terminal theme, too.

“It’s a very eclectic exhibition. That’s part of the whole mind-set. There will be a young atmosphere. The colors of the walls are not uniform.” Sounds a bit free and easy. “It won’t be too formal,” Lahav adds, somewhat superfluously. There is, it seems, also a seasonal side to the project.

“Terminal, airports and that sort of thing, that’s all suited to the summer, when people fly off for vacations.”

The proof of that pudding is in the stats.

“I checked out the figures. This year they are expecting around 23 million people to pass through Ben-Gurion Airport,” says the curator, offering some vicarious benefits for the rest. “Anyone who stays in Israel can, at least, come to the exhibition,” she laughs. “I think the fact that the works will be packed quite tightly also conveys a sense of the busy ambience of an airport terminal – you know, with people coming and going the whole time. They can see the works, and meet people who come to Israel from all over the world. That’s not too bad.”

That may all seem a little unstructured, but Lahav approaches her work with all due seriousness, and says she and the festival organizers relate to the artists’ contributions in a similar fashion.

“We issued a call for proposals. We didn’t commission specific artists, anyone could apply. We have all sorts of people, and of all ages – from soldiers to the over-50s – from all over the country.”

That should guarantee a generous spread of lines of aesthetic attack, and thematic focus.

“Some of the works are a little on the fringes of pure illustration. But anyway, illustration is not a strictly defined area. It is somewhere between art, visual communication and graphics.”

Lahav says she likes the less formal, less institutionalized ethos.

“It’s not just artists from the established community. It’s not the same 20 names you see at all major exhibitions. You get artists who normally work in different disciplines, and there are students, and amateurs for whom this is their first public airing. I think that keeps things fresh.”

URI GOLD’S tribute to Hanoch Levin on the 20th anniversary of the great playwright’s passing. (Credit: URI GOLD)

MEANWHILE, THE Nocturno eatery over on Bezalel Street will host the “Dream On – Israeli Artists Sound Off Against Racism” exhibition, curated by Dov Abramson, who runs a graphic design studio in town. The event, which is taking place in collaboration with the Racism Crisis Center and the Yellow Submarine, comprises illustrated and designed posters that sound out against racism and discrimination in Israeli society. The spread includes works by 11 artists, including Abramson himself, Noa Elbaz, Shimon Engel, Tirtza Peretz and Elad Lifschitz, with 10 printed posters and a couple of “animated posters.”

The latter also had a hand in organizing the show, which features the countenances and works of several A-listers from the rock and pop worlds, such as Barry Sacharoff, Rona Kenan, Shai Tsabari, Aviv Guedj and Ester Rada.

Lifschitz says that, in addition to the intriguing aesthetics, there is an important message to be had here.

“The exhibition was initiated by Racism Crisis Center and the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), which addresses issues like equality and individual privacy. IRAC has a department that helps victims of racism,” Lifschitz explains. Dream On is designed to amplify that stand and get it out to the public, using the posters as an aesthetically appealing platform. The Yellow Submarine is also in the mix and, following the Outline week, the show will relocate to the said music venue later on in the year.
It is a message Lifschitz and his fellow artists are keen to spell out.

“The problem is that people don’t know that racism happens all the time here,” he states. That was partially taken into account in the poster selection process, although Lifschitz says they aren’t look to overly shock us and, possibly, make us defensive.
“There are a couple of works that are more edgy, but most take a more optimistic approach.”

Elsewhere in the Outline lineup, there is a fun layout of works by siblings Or and Moran Yogev, inspired by Leah Goldberg’s timeless children’s book A Flat to Rent, which was published 60 years ago. For anyone who may not have grown up in this country or brought up kids here, the book’s theme is acceptance and healthy neighborliness. It doesn’t take a PhD to work out the sociopolitical undertones there.

ROCK STAR Beri Sakharof lends his illustrated presence to the ‘Dream On – Israeli Artists Sound Off Against Racism’ exhibition. (Credit: NOA ELBAZ)

MISHKENOT SHA’ANANIM will provide a deluxe berth for the “Illustrators Looking at a Boy Dreaming” spread of works by students of the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design’s Department of Visual Communications, as a tribute to late iconic playwright Hanoch Levin who, like Meir Ariel, passed away 20 years ago.

Naturally, it is hard to present Jerusalem in an artistic manner without, at least, some sort of reference to its glorious and checkered history. That will be addressed by the “1887 Time Tunnel Collective,” with the 15 members showing illustrative works relating to events that took place in the titular year, as well as other junctures in the city’s long life. The exhibition will be displayed at Hansen House which, not entirely incidentally, was built in 1887.

The Outline Festival closes on July 11 with a concert by Jerusalemite rapper Shaanan Streett, at the Beita Gallery on Jaffa Road. The same venue will host the quirkily entitled “Looks Like Rain on Thursday” show, by Michal Bonano and Amit Trainin, and curated by Avital Naor Wexler. The exhibition is the result of intriguing interface between pals Bonano and Trainin whereby they interviewed each other, visited each other’s homes, discussed art, literature, family, and food. The festival blurb also comically notes, “They also wondered if it would rain on Thursday.”

“It creates connections between the questions and answers, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and between the everyday Israeli experience with each one’s source of inspiration for art,” says Kelner.

Outline seems to offer something for just about everyone from just about anywhere.
Entry to all events is free. For further information: www.outlinejerusalem.com

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