It’s the working life

One gets a sense of the heroic building of the land and the pivotal role of combining skill and sheer muscular power in the form of labour that built the country.

By DANNY SHORKEND
May 6, 2019 21:54
2 minute read.
It’s the working life

A photo by Avivit Ballas Baranes from "What about Work and Worker's Rights"? . (photo credit: Courtesy)

What About Work  and Workers’ Rights?
Shirley Meshulam, curator
Grand Art, Haifa

Curator Shirley Meshulam brings together artists that deal with work and workers today in this carefully considered exhibition called ‘What About Work and Workers’ Rights?’ This is relevant in the context of the transformation of ideology, which is to say from a socialist to capitalist bent and the revolutions in technology, specifically in Israel. In this respect, labor unions such as the Histadrut labor federation and other labor unions around the world seek equal rights for men and woman, better working conditions and the like, while political and cultural opinion makers promise fairness and transparency.

The works on display attempt to express the humanistic realities of workers in factories and “studios,” a kind of idealistic gloss of the dying breed of manual laborers as the old world is supplanted by the “new world,” where carpenters, shoemakers, blacksmiths and so on are replaced by more mechanized production procedures. Some photos deal with the combined pressures of city life alongside the rural, and Israel is an interesting case in point with regard to the Kibbutz system and the fading manifesto of socialist ideals.

There is a focus on Haifa, which is a city built by workers. Such images offer a historic glimpse at the germination of the city and the factories it spawned, and it was here that the Histadrut came into being, with its first secretary-general being David Ben-Gurion.

One gets a sense of the heroic building of the land and the pivotal role of combining skill and sheer muscular power in the form of labour that built the country. There is a sense of unity among the ideology of socialism and shared wealth and investment in the land. The combination of photographs, posters, installation and video around the theme conspire to give one a sense of the sheer power and energy in developing the young and emerging state. This exhibition is a reflection on that, while also revealing a kind of vanishing world of ideals as the machinery and technologies change in a complex political terrain in the Middle East, where divides and antagonism exist.

Examples such as Tali Ben-Dor’s photographs lovingly captures a sense of ease and pride in and through work, where it is the hands that make and refine, much like an artists’ mark is said to express one’s signature style. Poster art, such as Naftali Bezem’s work of 1953 conveys the true profits of work, namely peace and friendship, as it is cooperative relations that are the bedrock and foundation for any nation to grow and evolve.

At the same time, such efforts are fraught with complexity. Avner Pinchover’s Cutting Board series seems to both celebrate the tremendous effort required to create and make, while at the same time expresses the resultant complexity as a plethora of marks and lines interweave and produce indecipherable patterns, perhaps alluding to the fact that such work is also tremendously strenuous and not always under the best conditions. Yet, bread must be put on the table.

A good show and particularly relevant in this country, as the young state sought to develop the infrastructure of a modern state while finding its own voice in a changing political, economic and technological world. The point, however, is that the right of the worker is crucial to any humanistic ideal and the fashioning of a just society and peaceful co-existence.


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