'HeartQuake' - us versus them?

A new exhibition explores anxieties on all levels - national, ethnic and global - and how it affects communication between people.

heartquake 88 (photo credit: )
heartquake 88
(photo credit: )
A red swing, suspended on the rooftop railing at the Museum on the Seam, is already making me uneasy. One can imagine a child slipping to his death below, crushed by the beautiful Jerusalem panorama. Located on a former military outpost near the border between East and West Jerusalem, the new exhibition HeartQuake that opened last week explores anxieties on all levels -national, ethnic and global - and how it affects communication between people. From a personal to a political level, the art seeks to examine how people respond to anxiety. Thirty-five global artists are featured and the variety of painting, sculpture and multimedia prevents boredom and encourages one to look deeper into the artists' intentions and biases. Although appropriate in Israel where anxiety is a national pastime, the exhibit moves refreshingly beyond borders and but is not entirely devoid of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The most poignant art on this topic is two side-by-side pictures that explore both perspectives of the conflict. The Israeli side shows a wounded soldier with bloody gauze over his eyes supported by comrades, while the companion photograph shows Palestinians cowering as IDF soldiers enter their home. Fitting in with a theme of the self versus the other, one can see how anxiety contributes to the deepening of an 'us versus them' attitude. The most atmospheric part of the exhibit are the cement walls leftover from the building's military outpost days. The gray lends a harsh edge more effective then blank white walls, especially with the windows partially blocked. One of these is a projected movie by Guli Silberstein of a happy family on a Gaza beach interspersed with a little girl under attack. The images blur into one another against a pulsing background of music until the confusion and terror become unbearably tense. However, few works actually create any palatable anxious feeling. Instead, the exhibit confronts themes almost purely through the intellect, wisely choosing to leave out emotions that can so easily explode in this region. Intellectually, the art can be appreciated and analyzed for something beyond its aesthetic value. In Ewa Harabasz's photograph of a woman victim from the London Underground bombing of 2005, she places religious icons surreptitiously around her - creating layers of reality, prejudice and pain. Philosophers and psychologists like Freud and his trauma theories have inspired the curator, and it shows. "The thinkers and the artists participating in the exhibition are creating and writing at geographical points widely distant from one another, and from this distance they can enable us to direct our regard towards opposing and merging horizons, while simultaneously focusing our gaze at the local skyline," says curator Raphie Etgar. Nevertheless, the exhibition is not without pretension. Some of its themes are murky and difficult to understand, especially with limited background on the sources of inspiration. Those used to wandering into museums to look at pretty paintings won't get much out of it. One really must stare and ponder each piece and ultimately read the catalog. The most interesting aspects of some pieces are easily missed, so it is best to know what to look for. Thankfully, the exhibit is never trite. And, while it does not quite invoke a fresh perspective entirely, it definitely creates a new angle for discussion. HeartQuake is currently running at 4 Chel Handasa St. For more information call (02) 628-1278 or visit www.mots.org.il