Amid COVID-19, new art exhibit 'Zooms in' on young lives

The exhibition name has a double meaning, hinting at the deeper gaze into the lives of the youth that the exhibition depicts, while also referencing the Zoom video conferences.

A PHOTOGRAPH taken by Holon student Yuval Elhasid. (photo credit: Courtesy)
A PHOTOGRAPH taken by Holon student Yuval Elhasid.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
When the novel coronavirus hit Israel, certain communities were hit particularly hard. Among those impacted significantly were students and artists. A year into the pandemic, art, film, and media students from Holon high schools are bouncing back with ZOOM IN, a unique art and photography exhibition featuring their personal experiences during corona times.
 The creative initiative, which will be part of the Israeli Season of Holon Design, was launched to engage students in the revival of the arts and culture world. Participating schools include Ayalon, Herzog, Navon, Naamat, Atidim, Kugel, Katzir, and Kiryat Sharet.
The exhibition name has a double meaning, hinting at the deeper gaze into the lives of the youth that the exhibition depicts, while also referencing the Zoom video conferences that have become so integral to daily life within the last year.
“A year ago, I initiated the merging of film, art, and communications majors across the city with the aim of establishing a big festival in which we would present the students’ work. The city has over a thousand students studying these majors,” said Holon’s Post-Elementary Education Division director and exhibition organizer Galit Bar-El, who is in charge of all Holon’s schools from seventh to twelfth grade. “Unfortunately, coronavirus came, so we looked for a different outlet to present their work, and ultimately launched ZOOM IN, which consists of two parts.”
The first part of the exhibition is a physical display of 26 paintings and photographs – selected from almost 150 submissions – in Holon’s Weizmann Square.
“We wanted to illustrate contrasting themes in our work,” said Yuval Elhasid, a 10th-grader at Holon’s Yitzhak Navon High School, whose photography will be featured among the 26 works in Weizmann Square. She worked on her winning photograph with her friend Shachar Buchbot.
Photograph by Yuval Elhasid featured in Zoom In online exhibit
“On one hand, there are the masks, which seemingly suffocate us. We have no air or freedom with the masks on. On the other hand, they’re also floating in the wind at the beach, which signifies the air and freedom that we’re missing. Personally, the beach helps me clear my thoughts during this time.”
She added: “The fact that my photograph was chosen is crazy and exciting. It means that the message that I wanted to convey will not only be seen by people in my high school – now it will be seen by the residents of Holon too.”
“I spent every day of the corona era with my dog, Oliver. Throughout the pandemic, he was closest to me. When my teacher encouraged us to produce something connected to our coronavirus experiences, I immediately thought of him. I wanted to connect my work to the time period, so I chose to put a mask on him – which wasn’t an easy feat,” said Yuval Rubinsky, another 10th-grader at the same high school, whose photography will also be featured at the square.
Photograph by Yuval Rubinsky featured in Weizmann Square
“I was so excited when my teacher told me my photography would be featured. It’s something that I never imagined. Obviously I worked hard, but I didn’t think it would make it to this level.”
The second part of the exhibition is a virtual museum which features the thousands of works submitted by the students of Holon, including photography, art, documentary films, feature films, memes, journalistic writing, and other forms of new media.
“Another photograph I took of my grandmother and I will be featured on the online exhibit,” said Elhasid. “In the picture, you can see her hand and mine, each of us holding the edge of a mask and pulling on it, which symbolizes the distance and difficulty between us. It’s really stretched out and tense, illustrating the pressure cooker we’re in, given today’s situation. We’re very close, so the distance is challenging.”
Photgraph by Yuval Elhasid featured in online exhibit
Bar-El expressed her enthusiasm for the exhibit: “As someone with love and affinity for communications, film, and art, the exhibit is something I strongly believe in. Through the students’ creations, one peers into the window of their lives – their hardships, feelings, and thoughts during this complex time. Their work reveals the difficult reality they live in, things they do not talk about, but definitely illustrate.”
She continued: “There are images of quarantine, their rooms – one image depicts a grandmother and grandson sharing the Passover Seder together while separated over Zoom. Art inspired by the pandemic allowed them to liberate their inner world. The city’s curators and an urban innovation center are sponsoring the exhibit. I think no other city has done such a thing. It’s very unique.”
The Weizmann Square exhibit will open on January 20 and run until April 3, and the launch of the virtual museum will be announced shortly.
Evidently, great art comes from great pain. As Israel’s citizens get injected with the vaccine, they are also likely to be immersed in arts and culture again as this specific field of Israeli society comes back to life.