Granddad’s trees

A German fine arts student whose grandfather helped contribute 10,000 trees to the nascent state is participating in the Musrara School of Photography’s Photopoetica 4 event.

Lisa Goetze is working on an archive of her grandfather’s photos. (photo credit: LISA GOETZE)
Lisa Goetze is working on an archive of her grandfather’s photos.
(photo credit: LISA GOETZE)
People come here from all over the world, for all kinds of reasons. Among them there are fervent Zionists, people escaping the bad weather at home, and Christians making pilgrimages – but Lisa Goetze was motivated to spend an extended period of her life here due to a combination of personal and professional/academic objectives.
The 20-something German fine arts student has been living here since February, when she began a master’s program at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. Ostensibly, she is principally here to further her arts studies, and to focus on creating photographic works through which she can express her view of the world.
Part of the latter is on show at the “Body Sentence” exhibition that opened yesterday at the Musrara School of Photography, Media, New Music, Visual Communications and Phototherapy – to give it its full, wordy name – and will run until December 25. It is one of three exhibitions that comprise the school’s Photopoetica 4 event, which also takes in music shows and poetry readings.
The name of the group show to which Goetze is contributing, along with 12 other artists, was taken from a book of poetry recently published by Ofir Nuriel. It is Nuriel’s debut offering, and has served as the launching pad for what co-curator Michal Tobias describes as “an exploration of the body, as representing otherness in the relationship between a person and the environment, through the medium of poetry and photography.”
The exhibition explanatory material also notes that “the exhibition highlights those areas where dissonance exists between the inner world of the individual and his body which involuntarily connects him with some general group, and attempts to examine the individual’s ability to escape from the corporeal representation in which he is entrapped.”
That sounds pretty heavy, but Goetze does not seem to be weighed down by that particular ethos. “I think the word ‘body’ is used in a more metaphorical way here, rather than in a direct narrative way,” she proffers.
So, it looks like we are talking about bodies or physical entities, and the way in which we communicate with our own physical entity and with other physical shapes or bodies? If this is the case, it pretty much covers all tangible bases in life, and that makes it a bit difficult to understand what it is, specifically, that the exhibition is addressing.
“Yes, that does cover everything,” admits Goetze, “but it leaves a lot of space for interpretation. I think the idea is not take a very wide angle on this, but to focus on one part of the meaning of bodies.”
The German says Tobias took a very down-to-earth approach to the exhibition theme.
“I think she [Tobias] came to me because I generally work with the body in my drawings, so she recognized I would fit into this exhibition. But what I really like about it is that Michal chose one of the works which does not focus on precise body parts. It was, in a way, like taking the aura out of it. She chose something in which she can see a body part, which looks like a body part, but is not the first thing that strikes your eye.”
Goetze’s contribution to Body Sentence certainly fits that description, and features an intriguing portrayal of hands, along with other body parts, in various positions which exude different degrees of presence and strength.
Goetze is delighted to be on board for the Body Sentence show, but she has a powerful emotional bond with Israel which, in fact, started long before she got here (she came for the first time in July 2013, for a two-week vacation). In fact, you could say that her connection with Israel was set in place many years before she was born. Her grandfather, Emmanuel Goetze, was a pastor who lived in the eastern part of Germany, not far from the Polish border. Shortly after the end of World War II, he decided he wanted to do something to help the nascent State of Israel.
“When he realized how the Jews had suffered during the Holocaust he wanted to sort of compensate, to do something for the Jews and for Israel,” explains Goetze.
“So he set up a sort of organization which planted trees here.”
The pastor came here and worked with mayor Teddy Kollek on creating a forest near Jerusalem, and today there is a much larger forest near Nazareth. “He started organizing trips to Israel and, together with Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, used the money from that to buy and plant trees. There are 10,000 trees in Israel thanks to my grandfather,” declares Goetze proudly. “I think that is very moving.”
While Goetze may be able to see the fruits of her grandfather’s Israel-friendly labors, and touch them, she was never able to do that with the pastor – simply because he died long before she was born. The fine arts student is trying to redress that familial gap through her academic work here.
“I am working on a photographic archive which my grandfather created,” she says. “I spend a lot of time with the photographs and try to make some sense out of them.
That sort of makes me closer to him, and I can get to know him a bit better through the photographs. All I know about him I know from stories I was told about him. But I want to get to know him for myself.”
Goetze also says she feels her being here helps draw her late grandfather to her.
“He planted trees near Jerusalem, so I feel strongly about being in the show here now.
He worked here so, in a way, I am following him.
“I started working with his pictures back in Germany, but it is much more powerful for me to work with them here, in Israel, where he helped create forests.”
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