Seeing (and hearing) is believing

As part of this week’s Jerusalem Day festivities, the Yaffo 23 gallery presents ‘Dissolving Localities,’ a live mix of audio-video recordings by seven artists.

Emmanuel Witzthum 311 (photo credit: David Vinocour)
Emmanuel Witzthum 311
(photo credit: David Vinocour)
Jerusalem Day festivities, like all our national events, frequently tend to take on an official, if not officious, guise. But Emmanuel Witzthum is not only offering us a highly visual and aurally striking celebration of our nation’s capital, he’s feeding off a definitively grass roots, nay street level, ethos.
On Thursday (8 p.m.) and Friday (2 p.m.), The Lab artistic director Witzthum will oversee the ‘Dissolving Localities’ DJ-VJ event at the Yaffo 23 gallery in Jerusalem. Witzthum has certainly put together some heavy artillery for the occasion with the artistic lineup including German multimedia artist Thomas Köner, Frenchborn Berlin-resident musician Kangding Ray and some of our own leading interdisciplinary artists, including Avi Belleli, Rea Mochiach, Arik Futterman, Moran Guttman and Witzthum himself.
Witzthum is evidently looking to provide the public with a mesmerizing, pan-sensory experience designed to encapsulate the very essence of Jerusalem’s multifaceted cultural mosaic.
“There are several strata to the project,” explains Witzthum.
“The first is the connection between the urban environment and people in general and artistic creation. The second level is to dissolve the whole concept of what comprises a city. As an artist I look at this from the point of view of there being no separation between the audience or the place in which I perform and my artistic creation.”
With regard to the cultural excursion in hand Witzthum says that means getting out there, and down and dirty.
“We went out to record every part of the city – Mahaneh Yehuda, Nahlaot, Me’a Shearim, the Old City, you name it – making video and sound field recordings. We compiled sound banks which are really a library.”
While the notion of just hitting the street with recording apparatus, and capturing random sights and sounds, may seem a bit chaotic there is more method to this artistic expedition than first meets the eye and/or ear.
“There are five sections to the work,” Witzthum continues.
“The first is nature, then people, industry, religion and the last which is a collage of everything – everything together which create the city.”
Nature, says the artistic director, includes the city’s parks, gardens and chirping feathered friends. The people section incorporates sounds and sights from common or garden venues such as cafés, the street and the shuk, while the industrial slot features such mundane elements as garages, cars, tractors and building sites.
Naturally, Jerusalem does not want for religious content, and Witzthum and his fellow artists have captured the video and audio evidence of synagogues of various ethnic colors, the bells of the YMCA, wailing muezzins, the chants of the different Christian sects which populate the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to mention but a few.
The next stage is to take all of the above and mix them into a heady audio-visual concoction through the artistic expertise and orientation of half a dozen multimedia artists.
THE ACROSS-the-board artistic experience at Yaffo 23 will be enhanced by the physical logistics at the venue. The audience will sit or lie on cushions, bean bags and rugs in the center of the room while the artists work their magic from stations, consoles and musical instruments strategically positioned in the corners and all the walls. There will also be four large screens on which the mixed and mingled images of the city will be projected.
As good as the raw material may be you’ve still got to do something interesting with it.
“There is a very varied team of artists here,” says Witzthum.
“Köner is very strong in field recordings and he does more atmosphere- oriented music while the French artist engages more in beats.
Then there’s Avi Belleli, from Nikmat Hatractor, Rea Mochiach, 2 VJs and I do live sampling.”
Naturally, with such a large and wideranging artistic arsenal on board, especially given the free flowing nature of the venture, mayhem could reign.
Witzthum has arranged the work so that each artist takes the lead at different points in the evolutionary process.
“Each artist will do something different but it will be like an orchestra,” he says.
“What is important in this work is that each artist leads but also listens to the others.”
Sounds like a metaphor on life and one which, if it could be applied successfully in real life, could make life a lot more peaceful in our fair capital city.
While the multimedia professionals and musicians are the frontmen and women in this venture Witzthum says it is the city and the Jerusalemites themselves who are at the core of the work.
“This is the first time that Jerusalem and the people in it have been used not as the subject of the work. In fact the people, the daily life, are the work.
Jerusalem and the people in it are like a piano which we, the artists, play. Take a car and a Tunisian synagogue, for example, and you get a piano chord.
Pure music.”
“Jerusalem has never sounded like this before,” says Witzthum.
Later this month Witzthum will take Jerusalem on the road, with the project due to be performed at the prestigious Future en Seine alternative venue in Paris on June 24. Witzthum will also deliver a lecture at the event, entitled Urban Space and the Prosumer - The Future of Artistic Creation?
For more information about Dissolving Localities: (02) 629-2001. Tickets cost NIS 20.