In or out

The modest dimensions of Israel’s photographic equipment also helped to pave the way to a more intimate ambiance.

Hefziba Shuali Schaz, ‘Digging Myself a Pitfall,’ 2017, performance documentation. (photo credit: DANA MEIRSON)
Hefziba Shuali Schaz, ‘Digging Myself a Pitfall,’ 2017, performance documentation.
(photo credit: DANA MEIRSON)
Yaakov Israel didn’t really think too much about putting an exhibition together.
“In my work [as an arts teacher] I travel a lot around the country and I started taking photos of different things that caught my eye – nothing special, just with my cell phone,” he says. What began life as an Instagram project evolved into the “Postcards from Israel” display currently on show at Artists’ House in Jerusalem.
“A lot of what I have been doing for the last few years has been along the lines of a photographic odyssey,” Israel explains. “‘The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey’ is a very specific type of photographic journey around Israel,” he says, referring to one of his long-term artistic ventures. “It is based on the American tradition of photographic expeditions. It is a sort of evolution – one step further down the road – of this kind of thing,” he adds, referring to “Postcards from Israel,” curated by Nogah Davidson. The traditional photographic journal format enables Israel to take a step back from his country of birth, and a society he knows so well, and to view and present it with a professional unjaundiced eye.
Then again, the diminutive shots on view on the upper floor of Artists’ House are not the results of a premeditated attempt to encapsulate the people and spirit of this country in a pictorial form. Israel says he went about his regular business and, by the by, took some snaps. That’s all.
“The previous (“White Donkey”) project was a bona fide photographic journey, with a heavy 8 x 10 inch camera, with the idea of generating photographic momentum from start to finish.”
Postcards is a very different visual kettle of fish.
“This one started out with my cell phone and graduated to a small camera – taking pictures on the bus or the train. I also roam around aimlessly, if I have the time. That’s part of who I am.”
That, says Israel, allowed him to get closer to his subjects and real life, in a less encumbered manner.
“You know, we tend to go around with all sorts of digital appliances. Like this I can really get to know people. I believe that is still of value – to talk to people.”
The modest dimensions of Israel’s photographic equipment also helped to pave the way to a more intimate ambiance.
“I hoped people would be less wary of a small camera, even though it is clearly not a cell phone either,” he observes. “They did notice me but were more relaxed about it.”
The upshot of that discreet mindset is an alluring set of small prints that, somehow, manage to convey a sense of some of the national identity subtext, but without making too much of a song and dance about it.
Davidson also lent her practiced curatorial hand to Meital Covo’s offering, which basically is an attempt to draw us into some inner machinations, and to get us to communicate with our inner feelings and inner anatomy. That is something of a recurring theme in several of the exhibitions currently underway at Artists’ House – an inside-outside thing, with attention to detail and roots, considering the generally unconsidered, and taking a look at physical and emotional intervals that don’t normally get noticed.
Covo focuses on the oral orifice as a conduit between exterior and interior, and vice versa. Her works deconstruct a range of orally facilitated activities, including laughing, screaming, chewing and speaking.
She also challenges us to dig deep and act in a definitively non-PC and patently socially unacceptable manner, and to take the consequences, for good or for bad. Thus, in “Un homme qui crie dans la forêt” (“A Man Who Screams in a Forest”), she proffers some of the end product of a project she ran in Paris a couple of years ago.
At the time, Covo was enjoying an artist residency in the French capital in an expansive building in the center of town. Her studio space, on the fifth floor, included a small balcony and Covo simply invited members of the public to nip out there and shout their head off, regardless of how their decibel output might be taken by unsuspecting passersby going about their business in the street below.
Shouting out loud in public, in certain cultures, is considered to be fundamentally bad form. It can be perceived as being a crass and undesirable expression of emotion that – God forbid – might induce a similar response from others. But Covo’s idea elicited enthusiastic responses from quite a few of her visitors, including a couple who went out onto the balcony with their toddler daughter. The adults appear to have joined in the shouting fun with gay abandon, letting loose from deep inside, come what may.
The title of the work appears to be a misnomer, until Covo explains that she had asked various people to go into a forest with a recording device, shout and scream to their heart’s desire, and to subsequently send her the recording anonymously. Nice idea, but it proved to be beyond the volunteers’ emotional capabilities.
“People said they would do it, but no one did,” Covo recalls. Plan B emerged in the form of the balcony shouting stint. That proved to be a greater success and various people offloaded some deep-seated feelings out there.
The large-scale “Group Photograph” depicts a popular hiking site in the Jilabun Valley on the Golan Heights, known as the “Bubblegum Stone.”
The epithet’s source becomes immediately apparent as the conjoined still photography pans across the surface of the rock revealing a curious hybrid amalgam of moss, lichen and, yes, bubblegum. It is, apparently, a long-held tradition for youngsters to affix their well-chewed gun to the rock.
“I remember doing that myself when I was in high school,” Covo confesses.
It is an intriguing work. As we scan the rock surface, applied man-made waste seems to blend in with the petrified surface and the naturally formed add-ons. It conjures up a satirical image of a reallife “post,” replacing the online Facebook equivalent. The ostensibly disgusting habit of dumping used gum on a naturally formed element indirectly creates a community situation and a spontaneous shared repository.
There is more emotion mining in “Somniloquy,” an edited recording of the artist talking in her sleep, which offers a peek into the most intimate depths of the soul, an aperture to the dark crypt of the subconscious. Covo’s personal exposure transforms her private world into a collective human experience, a source of identification, and we, the viewers, are at liberty to identify, or otherwise, with the artist.
The last item in the Covo section is an endearing one. Dror’s “Vicissitudes of Fate” is a recording of Covo’s then-one-year-old son’s laughter, the idea being to continue capturing Dror’s giggles every six months and tracking the evolution of his personality in the process. Covo expects the exercise to shed light on her son’s changing emotions and ability to express himself, and possibly also to shed light on the ebb and flow of the relationship between mother and son.
Meanwhile, down on the ground floor, Hefziba Ita Shuali was busy getting on with her emerging “Re~life” project, which forms part of the Nidbach installation-performance series, curated by the Sala-Manka Collective. This is an ongoing site-specific venture that references the building, which once served as home to Bezalel Art School founder Boris Schatz and his wife Olga.
The latter is the subject of much of Shuali’s present avenue of creative endeavor, as the artist “communicates” with Mrs. Schatz on all sorts of levels. The artist has set up shop in the lab-like space and has incorporated parts of the building into the evolving work. Stay tuned.
Other slots well worth a peek or two at the Artists’ House right now include “Communicating Vessels: Avraham Ofek’s Plates and Glass Works” and a fascinating bunch of intricately fashioned drawings by much-lauded young artist Yonatan Zofy.
The exhibitions close November 11. For more information: