Another world is possible

Video artists imagine surreal worlds in a new exhibition at Bezalel Gallery

Still from 'The Brain' 311 (photo credit: courtesy Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design)
Still from 'The Brain' 311
(photo credit: courtesy Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design)
Did the video artists and organizers of the exhibition of new video works, Another World is Possible, at the Bezalel Gallery at 23 Jaffa Road in Jerusalem, have any inkling when they began planning it that the timing would be perfect? It opens just as the tent protests for social justice that riveted the country all summer are winding down.
In fact, the title of the exhibition itself could have been the slogan on a sign painted by the protesters.
The exhibition of 10 films, which was assembled by curator Maayan Amir, was sponsored by the New Israeli Fund for Cinema and Television.
The venue is also particularly apt.
Although the address itself, 23 Jaffa Road, may not remind you of anything, if you are a Jerusalemite you’ve probably been to that building more times than you can count – it’s the city’s main post office. The Bezalel Gallery is upstairs, but there is one video monitor in the ground-floor entrance.
Being in this building cannot fail to conjure memories of long waits, snarling bureaucrats, and, for many, struggling to be understood in less-than-perfect Hebrew.
The idea that “Another world is possible” is particularly inspiring in this context.
Dalya Markovich’s Enterprise, the short video that plays in this entrance, focuses on images of urban decay and deprivation.
As you enter the main gallery, you can see and hear several videos at once, and as you walk through, there are more in separate rooms. The subtitle of the exhibition might be, “Watch it your way.” The advantage of such a presentation, where the works play continuously, is that you can choose when to begin watching, and when to stop. For anyone used to seeing films in the conventional way, from beginning to end, this is quite a change. In this exhibition, you are encouraged to really look at each image, and to simply react to it, rather than being led through it by a conventional storyline.
Amit Berlowitz’s Awakening, for example, plays on three screens, each showing a video that is not quite what it seems. In one video, a game on a beach between an apparently happy couple turns into something more sinister. In another, a romantic walk in the woods completely changes, depending on when you start watching the video. Like many of these works, the videos hint at danger, mixed motives and terror.
The literal centerpiece of the exhibition is Tali Keren’s The Interpreter. Playing on two screens, it features testimony from Claude Lanzmann’s documentary Shoah, recited in different languages by male voices, while it is also performed by female sign-language interpreters (and has a Hebrew translation on a separate monitor). Although the words may be familiar to anyone who has seen the film or read histories of the Holocaust, seeing them illustrated in this way underscores each image that the speakers describe. It gives them a freshness that is very hard to achieve in a traditional talking-heads documentary format.
As a backdrop, a set illustrating a concentration camp exterior is less effective than seeing an elderly man’s words interpreted by the hands of a younger woman.
Freddy Kislev’s The Brain also makes a strong but very different impression in its nine minutes. In the spirit of the exhibition, I’ll describe it without attempting to make sense of it. The focus is an arresting and distorted image of a Stephen Hawking-like scientist who is going to Israel to win a prize. He has a huge and creepy head coming out of tiny neck. While in Israel, he calls his girlfriend, apparently a German teenager who lives with her father. As she sits in her pink bedroom and chats with the scientist, her disapproving father comes on the line and tries to break them up. Then, two Russian women talk by phone about how badly the scientist treats women. This is contrasted with a lecture he gives about how the sun is going to die, which is illustrated with arresting images watched by adoring young viewers.
Several of the works seem to make pointed comments on the current political standoff.
Fahed Halabi’s Condescendence, projected on the floor, shows images of a construction site, seen from the point of view of construction workers. A chain dangles like a tentacle as the camera peers down from the top of the building being constructed, and in another sequence, construction workers eat lunch. This is Ground Zero of the housing crisis, and we are with the workers who build houses they most likely will never afford to live in.
A different kind of urban malaise is on display in Aya Ben-Ron’s Patient, as a nurse walks through a dilapidated but empty hospital, and it becomes clear that the building itself is a kind of patient.
Several of the other works, including Alona Friedberg’s Leisure, Rinat Kotler’s Explosive Flow, and Ohad Fishof’s Abduction, use often jarring images to create a feeling of uncertainty and alienation.
Rona Yafman’s Let It Bleed, teases conventions about gender and sexuality.
The exhibition runs through November 5, and is open Tuesday to Thursday, 4 to 8 p.m.; Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Watch it and experience the possibility of this other world.