Jerusalem's Manofim Festival takes to Zoom for 2020

This year’s online program runs October 27 to 29.

Documentation of the working process including: a screenshot of a photo by Dan Robert Lahiani, a filmstill of a video by Adina Camhy and a satellite image of an abandoned quarry, Mitzpe Ramon (Google Maps), Adina Camhy and Dan Robert Lahiani, 2020 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Documentation of the working process including: a screenshot of a photo by Dan Robert Lahiani, a filmstill of a video by Adina Camhy and a satellite image of an abandoned quarry, Mitzpe Ramon (Google Maps), Adina Camhy and Dan Robert Lahiani, 2020
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The tough may get going when the going gets tough, but what do you do when you can’t really go anywhere, at least in actual physical terms? Thankfully, in these bewildering times, there is always the virtual universe where roaming is – virtually – unlimited and we can take off in any which direction.
Cultural endeavor has increasingly resorted to Zoom-based means of presentation over the past eight months or so, and this year’s edition of the Manofim Festival is about to do that, big time. The annual event is the most prominent slot in the Jerusalem arts calendar, and takes in a multitude of artistic offerings from, largely, Jerusalemite creators with some imported input in the mix too.
This year’s online program runs October 27 to 29 and traditionally serves as the official curtain raiser for the fall season and is designed to proffer as wide a range as possible of the exciting work being produced in this still-divided but definitively evocative city, across numerous sectors and communities.
Festival founders artistic directors Le Hee Shulov and Rinat Edelstein have crafted a three-day itinerary that reflects some of the diversity to be found in these parts, while appealing to all tastes and age groups. There are virtual tours, exhibitions, concerts and workshops on offer, including a bunch of items tailored for kids, the cultural consumers of tomorrow.
Shulov and Edelstein have clearly put in a shift or two in getting the festival together, and were determined to keep the Manofim bandwagon on track for the 12th year, pandemic or no. 
“The festival has never been canceled, even when intifadas broke out and in extreme political and security situations across the city,” Edelstein points out. “This year, too, we view the continued existence of Manofim as recognition – even if it sounds like a tired cliché. We believe that culture is a fundamental part of the fabric of life.”
The artistic directors are doing their utmost to keep the local creative scene alive and kicking, despite the potholes along the way to keeping the project on the road, even in normal times. 
“It is never easy to run an independent festival, and certainly not these days,” Edelstein continues, adding that she and Shulov are looking at the wider, longer-term picture. 
“Every ticket that is purchased, for any of the events, will help us to support the artists who are taking part in the festival and who, over the past half a year, have been experiencing some tough obstacles. That will help to sustain Manofim’s activities, in as independent a way as possible, and to safeguard it in coming years too.”
THERE ARE intriguing goodies right across the three-day program that address numerous avenues of artistic thought and disciplines. The opener certainly makes for appealing consideration, situated at a left-field location. The filmed show-performance at the Biblical Zoo will take Zoom viewers on an audio-visual tour of sections of the zoo, and also features a Q&A session with artist Hila Amram, who has created a site-specific installation in one of the venue’s special rooms usually closed to the public.
The thinking behind quite a few of the festival events was fueled by the ongoing global health crisis. That includes the program starter. There are some who view zoos as little more than prisons, or showcases, for animals who should really be out in the wild doing whatever comes to them naturally, helping to keep Mother Nature and the planet in synch. But in this day and age, there is also the preservation aspect to be considered. 
“We chose the location due to the existential predicament we all find ourselves in,” Edelstein explains. She posits that we are, currently, all prone to some form of incarceration. 
“In order to safeguard our own lives we have had to self-isolate. There is something in the zoo format that puts that into practice.”
Even so, Edelstein is aware of the flipside of the structural limitations zoos place on their fauna inmates. 
“It does raise question marks. We may be preserving animals instead of allowing them out into the world where they may not be equipped to survive – partly due to human intervention. It is a value system replete with contrasts.”
Amram is a good fit for the opening venture, having made a name for herself for her research-based creations, which feed off an interdisciplinary substratum of various scientific realms, such as biology, chemistry, art and archaeology, which, says Amram, “stems from a deep affinity with nature and fascination with the wonders of universe and its outcomes.”
Her professional credo resonates with Edelstein’s approach to the protective human-fashioned environment and natural milieu conundrum. 
“In all of my works [there is] a potential for the rise of new life in unexpected places, and [they] take notice of objects in an intermediate state between life and death, natural and synthetic, inanimate and sprouting, as the transition between those two edges recurs time after time, yet occurs in a blink of an eye,” Amram suggests.
THE BEDROCK of the Manofim escapade is, of course, exhibitions that will open, or continue, across the city at an assortment of venues such as Beita Gallery on Jaffa Road; Hamifal off King David Street; Hansen House; the Jerusalem Print Workshop in Musrara and spots in Talpiot and Nahlaot – including the Barbur Gallery which, thankfully, is still an ongoing concern despite several threats to its continued existence in recent years; Anna Ticho House and Beit Hakerem to mention but a few.
The festival lineup also includes some entertaining and instructive fare for younger participants, with a slew of workshops for children aged six to 10, and their kin. 
“There will be six workshops for children – two a day,” says Edelstein. “They are all inspired by the exhibitions that are on display in the city now.”
One such is the “Child with Boots” October 27 (4 p.m.) family activity, which feeds off the “Bird, What Are You Singing?” exhibition at Muslala in the Clal Building. 
“Children will learn what it means to be a bird, and what kind of bird they would imagine they might be,” Edelstein explains. “They will use their imagination and fantasies, and use all sorts of materials.” Sounds like an engaging exercise for kids and adults alike.
The festival roster also features a conference with a bunch of top-notch speakers lined up from around the globe. The 36-year-old Lithuanian playwright, poet and interdisciplinary project creator Vaiva Grainytė is in the conference mix, as is American arts writer, critic and curator Hrag Vartanian, who also serves as the editor-in-chief of the well-considered arts blogazine Hyperallergic.
AND WHAT would an arts event be without some mellifluous and rhythmic sonic relief? The forthcoming edition of Manofim has some quality musical content on offer, with singer-songwriter Asaf Amdursky; Jerusalem electronic trio Vulkan Entertainment; and super duo pairing of eclectic singer Ravid Kahalani and equal broadly roaming guitarist-vocalist Uri Ramirez in a blues-fueled show, comprising The Mixer lineup.
The Pendulum section of the program, curated by Moran Sulmirski Noam and produced by the Art Cube Artists’ Studios – aka The Cube – team, reprises the aforementioned itinerant-challenged aspect of COVID-19 restrictions-compliant living. As the festival blurb notes, there are parallels between the rover and the free-flowing artist. 
“The nomad lives without stopping, he must continue to try and arrive at new places, places that exist only in the imagination. The nomad lives in uncertainty, without knowing, without any fixed routine. The nomad who travels without – spiritual or physical – portable property that can hinder his movement, moves freely through space.” 
All of which can engender the desire and ability to venture into uncharted waters. 
“The nomadic entity recognizes the need to allow new ideas to evolve and embark on a spiritual journey to the unknown, asking to let go of the burden of existence and liberate oneself.”
Klil Wexler would go along with that. The 28-year-old Jerusalem-based multidisciplinary artist has several berths in the program. On October 29 she will take her audiences for a couple of online rounds of the Botanic Gardens sculptural offerings, she contributes to the group exhibition at The Cube, and also participates in the one-on-one Artists Appointment project. For the latter she will be ensconced in her studio at the Teddy Stadium gallery, and “get together with” individual members of the public for intimate Zoom sessions.
While she would be happier to meet her audience in person, Wexler says she will make the most of the event.
“In the wake of the coronavirus, the nature of the project changed,” she explains. “The general topic of the discussions is migration – looking at the challenges of aliyah, for example.”
She knows all about that from close quarters, as her father made aliyah from Argentina at the age of 23 and had to navigate several bumps in the road here over the years. 
“I want to examine shattered dreams and how people might be preparing some kind of escape route from the current situation,” she says, “something that has come up quite a lot recently.” 
No prizes for guessing why.
Wexler is drawn to people and their life stories, which fuel her imagination and output. 
“For me, Artists Appointment is an opportunity to consider the circumstances in which we are all living today, and to use that for our art.” 
The participants will not come empty-handed. “We will look at [migration-related] pictures they will prepare in advance,” Wexler notes. “The idea is that there will be an interface between their stories and images I come up with during the course of our time together.”
The festival will also see the launch of the latest edition of the Harama contemporary art and arts writing magazine called The Invention of Nature. Naturally.
Many of the Manofim events are free, but all require prior registration. For tickets and more information: