A Jerusalem designer mix

A temporary exhibition facility is providing artists with an opportunity to display their work in the capital – and not to seek employment at the other end of Highway 1.

‘It’s Complicated.’  (photo credit: ORON ELIOR)
‘It’s Complicated.’
(photo credit: ORON ELIOR)
If Oron Elior has his way, Jerusalem will soon be a much more culturally enriched, artistically expressive and unabashedly proud place in which to live and work.
Twentysomething Elior is one of four artists who recently graduated from the Hadassah Academic College and the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design who not only want to spread their own artistic word, but they also want to provide a platform for like-minded creative people from all over the city.
Elior plans to kick-start that commendable venture on May 16 through the Meutzav Yerushalmi exhibition and store, which will be housed until June 5 at what is currently known as the 8721 Asset Gallery on Rivlin Street. The name of the project is a play on words, referencing the well-known fried meat-based dish meurav Yerushalmi (Jerusalem mix) with the tweaked thematically tailored title translating as “Jerusalem Designed.”
The temporary exhibition facility was initiated by Eden, the Jerusalem Center Development Company, which has been providing shelter for a string of temporary arts exhibitions at the said aesthetically pleasing compact site that once functioned as the municipality’s downtown irrigation control center.
“We are designers who live in Jerusalem and design in Jerusalem and are inspired by Jerusalem,” says Elior.
The foursome incorporates various approaches to the art form.
“I am a product designer, we have an industrial designer and a ceramic artist, all sorts of 3D things,” he says.
Meutzav Yerushalmi sounds definitively intertwined with the urban fabric and history of the capital. Elior and his pals seem to have adopted an altruistic mind-set.
Understandably, they very much want to make a living from their hard-earned professional skills, but they also want to share any potential prosperity with their fellow artists and artisans who, like the founding quartet, want little more than to make ends meet and to do what they love doing right here in Jerusalem.
It is no secret that large numbers of Bezalel students who come to Jerusalem solely for the duration of the degree program hotfoot it back to Tel Aviv as soon as they have their diploma safely tucked away in their CV file. Sadly, there are also plenty of Jerusalemites who relocate down to the other end of Route 1 simply because there are many more job openings in Tel Aviv.
Elior feels that he and his fellow professionals have some added marketing value to get out there that is just crying out for a “store window.”
“We are basically trying to create a platform for designers working in Jerusalem,” he says.
“We want to work with Jerusalem-based designers who create in Jerusalem based on a belief that Jerusalem has something new to offer the world.”
The latter is hard to quantify or define in words.
“We want to explore that through our work,” explains Elior, “and to give the work a platform in order to enhance the process.”
Sounds logical enough.
We all know the cliché about artists having to suffer for their art, and there may be some truth in the hardship adage. There is a general consensus in Tel Aviv that Jerusalem is a tough place to live in, what with all the Jews and Arabs, not to mention the haredi-secular divide among the former. As far as Elior and his siblings in designer arms are concerned, it is just that urban ambiance that infuses their work with a unique edginess.
“This city is awash with infinite sources of inspiration. We want to produce things that come from here, that have a connection with this place. As far as I am concerned, artists who create in the Jerusalem context take Jerusalem and pass it through his or her individual filter and bring something out,” he says.
Presumably that is the case with any artist. Elior says that designers have a different take.
“You can take a design idea home with you and give it some special twist,” he suggests. “It gives something else. We are not talking about some giant-sized painting or some standard Jerusalem motif. We are talking about something more pop-oriented.”
That is not a reference to the pop art movement of the 1950s of the likes of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.
“We are talking ‘poppy’ things that are ‘cool’ or interesting,” Elior adds. “That allows you to digest Jerusalem from all kinds of new perspectives and allows us, as people who create in Jerusalem, to present the city in a new and different light.”
Elior’s revolutionary line of thought was, in fact, sparked by the most mundane, and populist, of product offerings.
“One day I was walking through the Old City and I looked at all the stores that sell those olive wood miniature camels and figures of Jesus and all kinds of amulets and water and air from the Holy Land. I thought, ‘That’s one thing this city offers to tourists who come here, but what else can we offer the world? There is so much here, why does it have to be about standard kitsch?’” he recounts.
There is, of course, lots more to be had from this fair city steeped in millennia of history. “We have endless inspiration in this city – 3,000 years of inspiration,” says Elior. He believes that there is an abundance of untapped oxymoronic creative fuel to be had, too.
“All the world’s tension flows through here, which is wonderful. There are such powerful creative forces here. Most of the country’s art schools are located in Jerusalem, and that is not by chance,” he says.
Jerusalem is frequently identified with Jewish-centric aesthetic themes, not least Judaica. Here, too, Elior and his Meutzav Yerushalmi cohorts feel they have something innovative to add.
“There is no reason, for example, why we should offer the public a different style of, for example, hanukkia. I have no problem with the beautiful Judaica items exhibited in the Israel Museum, but why not try a different way of representing Hanukka?” he says.
That might come at a price, but not an exorbitant one.
“You can buy a regular postcard in the Old City for NIS 3, but the postcards that I create, using laser cuts, will cost you NIS 15. We offer something special, often handmade, and I think the public will appreciate that,” he says.
Elior and his mates also have grander plans in store.
“After we finish with the Meutzav Yerushalmi exhibition, at some stage I would like to open a store on Jaffa Road that will offer our special Jerusalem-inspired art,” he explains. “We are talking small to medium-sized items, up to the size of a chair.
I think Jaffa Road is a special, and largely unmined, thoroughfare. If we open our store there, maybe that will inspire others to follow suit, and together we can set some special kind of creative forces in motion.” • ‘It’s Complicated.’ (Oron Elior) A pop-up exhibition at the gallery. (Courtesy)