Outline Fesitval - Lines drawn across the city

While not all the exhibitors are residents of the capital, there is plenty in the way of locally fueled vibes across the 13 exhibitions incorporated in the festival purview.

‘MY PEACE is Tied with Thread’ by Moran Barak examines relationships and transitions (photo credit: MORAN BARAK)
‘MY PEACE is Tied with Thread’ by Moran Barak examines relationships and transitions
(photo credit: MORAN BARAK)
An artist’s physical milieu, generally, simply has to come into their work at some stage and to some degree. When the locale is particularly soaked in human history stretching out over the millennia and with plenty of “action” available in contemporary times, too, the creator’s mind-set and approach to their artistic output naturally and eagerly feeds off the quotidian urban ebb and flow.
That has been apparent over the past three years in the offerings of the Outline Festival (the festival’s full official moniker is “Outline – Illustration and Poetics in Jerusalem”), an annual display of illustration works that takes place at various locations around Jerusalem. While not all the exhibitors are residents of the capital, there is plenty in the way of locally fueled vibes across the 13 exhibitions incorporated in the festival purview.
The selected venues also reflect some of that home-based perspective. During the festival’s time bracket, (which is officially August 4 to 13, although several of the exhibitions will run for much longer), works of illustrative and textual value will be on view at such august and eminent facilities as Hansen House, the Museum of Natural History and the Beita Center.
The latter is of particular importance, both within the temporal and thematic confines of the festival and as a leading arts showcase vehicle in the capital. For its Outline input, Beita will host the Carousel exhibition, August 5 to October 9, curated by Avital Naor Wexler. Like a lot of the creative stuff coming out these days, it references a post-COVID-19 era – the imprint that the pandemic is leaving on our psyches and the way we consider the world about us.
The kinetics of the titular apparatus are noted in the exhibition background material: “During these strange times in which we are living it seems as if the world has slowed its normal rotational movement. The Carousel exhibition directs its gaze at the act of rotation itself.”
Beita, which operates under the auspices of the municipality’s Department of Plastic Art, acts as the logistical and artistic conduit for the whole illustration and text shebang, which also benefits from support from the Young Adults Authority. The overall theme of this year’s festival is transitions: from the inside to the exterior, between night and day, animation and illustration, between cities, children and adulthood and other areas of life. Some of the outdoor exhibits will also examine the disciplinary and stylistic interfaces between photography and illustration, animation, wall drawings and installations.
OUTLINE ARTISTIC director Noa Kelner says she had her ear firmly to the ground in the run-up to the festival, and was keenly aware of the peripheral dynamics that were increasingly impacting on everyday life here. That led to some programmatic rethinking.
“A lot of artists and people connected to the sector have been thinking about the coronavirus and reacting to it,” she notes. “Then we had this subject of the carousel.”
The Health Ministry-imposed constraints of movement imbued the circular action with some real-life relevance.
“Suddenly there was this notion of staying in the same place. You move around but don’t go anywhere.”
Then there is the Passers-By al fresco exhibition, which will be on show 24/7 near the Light Rail stop at the junction between Herzl Boulevard and Yitzhak Rabin Boulevard, near Kiryat Moshe.
“There are two illustrators who took images of Jerusalem – one took pictures of balconies and the other took landscape views of Jerusalem – and drew on top of them,” Kelner explains.
The exhibition tack shifted as the response to the pandemic made increasing inroads into everyday life.
“The idea was originally a little technical,” says Kelner. “They thought of taking shots of Jerusalem and introducing various figures into them. Then, because of the coronavirus, the plan took a new and very interesting significance. For the first time in our lives we experienced a deserted city, empty streets and people shut away inside their homes. The notion emerged of inserting human figures into scenes of a deserted city.”
That fits neatly into the textual-poetic part – Passers-By – which includes an extract of a poem by late Israel Prize laureate and Nobel Prize for Literature nominee Jerusalemite poet Yehuda Amichai. In English it reads something along the lines of: “We are also to be found in the beautiful snaps of our city. We may not be visible, because we stayed at home, or we may be too small. The picture was taken by a passing plane.” Sounds eminently, and sadly, pertinent.
THE MUNICIPALITY says it is more than happy to help push some cultural ware out there to a public that has had far too little in the way of entertainment and the arts to enhance the quality of life in recent months.
“Even at the height of the corona crisis, the Municipality of Jerusalem knows how to keep the flame of art and culture alight, and is doing so in keeping with the full guidelines of the Ministry of Health,” declares Mayor Moshe Lion. “I believe the festival will generate fascinating dialogue and interest for the general public, and will serve as an honorable platform for advancing the artists.”
Kelner hopes that Outline will help to redress some of the cultural deficiency that has accumulated since March.
“After a prolonged period of silence in the world of culture and art in Israel, and with numerous question marks surrounding the preparations for the festival, it is now coming to life with the cream of the illustrators and artists from Jerusalem and around Israel.”
Social distancing demands, says Kelner, also helped to guide her curatorial hand.
“This year, more than ever, it was important for us to exhibit works outside and to enable the public to enjoy illustrations in the open public domain, in addition to spaces located around the city that allow inspirational dialogue between the location and the exhibition.”
There is also a Plan B.
“We prepared an alternative program that would allow the festival to take place digitally should we be required to adapt the festival to new guidelines. Either way the public can look forward to an amazing festival.”
As the festival is, after all, based here, I wondered whether there was anything uniquely Jerusalemite about the program and the works in general. Kelner initially referenced the street-level facts.
“The festival has a Jerusalemite character to it because we are working with places in Jerusalem.”
There’s no denying that, but I still wanted to see whether there was an underlying general local vibe to the spread of works we will see around the city as of Tuesday.
“We, for example, are using the Museum of Natural History, which is an old building that is about to undergo renovation work. So the exhibits do have a dialogue with the building.”
And there’s no getting away from the uniqueness of this millennia-old place that has been fought over by umpteen civilizations through time and, of course, continues to arouse powerful emotions.
“There are also quite a few projects that are directly connected to Jerusalem,” Kelner adds. “Jerusalem is a city you can’t ignore, so many of the exhibitions create some kind of dialogue with the city.”
The festival artistic director slips on her own artistic hat for a moment.
“I can tell you as a Jerusalemite illustrator myself that the city strongly impacts on the content of illustrations. There is something in the city’s visibility, in the broad variety of people you see here and the certain heaviness in the city; all that impacts on illustration work.”
That is grist to Kelner’s creative mill.
“I really enjoy creating illustrations based on Jerusalem. It is a fascinating city. I don’t know whether you can say categorically that there is a Tel Aviv style of illustrating and a Jerusalem style. But I can say that the Jerusalem illustrator is far more forgiving toward the city and that there is a lot of love that goes into the work.”
MIND YOU, it seems not everyone was happy with all the works that were submitted for the exhibitions. The festival was originally due to feature 14 shows, but the I Also Knew Love exhibition, which will be unveiled next week at the Dwek Gallery at Mishkenot Shaananim, will not now be officially included in the festival lineup.
The exhibition features “young and passionate commentary on Hebrew texts from the time of the Song of Songs, through [legendary Jerusalemite poetess) Zelda to contemporary Hebrew poetry.” The show forms part of Mishkenot Shaananim’s For Adults Only festival and, it seems, the erotic-leaning nature of some the illustrations created by students of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design ruffled a few municipal feathers.
“This is an exhibition that is part of the studies of the Department of Visual Communications of the Bezalel Academy,” says the municipality spokesperson’s response. “This year, due to the fact that some of the illustrations made by Bezalel students include content that is liable to be offensive to some members of the public, the municipality decided not to publicize this specific exhibition within the framework of the municipal festival.”
Bezalel, naturally, had a very different take on the development.
“Bezalel believes in freedom of expression and creation, and protects it,” said the academy’s official statement. “Despite the Municipality of Jerusalem’s disappointing decision, we are delighted with the presentation of the exhibition at Mishkenot Shaananim, as planned, and invite the public to visit it.”
After more than three millennia of quibbling and fighting in this part of the world, it somehow seems right to have a little controversy – even over a seemingly innocuous and spiritually uplifting illustration and poetry festival.
For more information: www.outlinejerusalem.com/