‘Transitional Object’ exhibition at Philistine Museum is fascinating

The show, which runs until July 2021 was deftly curated by Galit Gaon and Tom Cohen, who came up with a surprisingly varied array of artifacts, collections, and juxtapositions.

Assaf Eini- Moseline Brothers (photo credit: Courtesy)
Assaf Eini- Moseline Brothers
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It seems we are all from somewhere else. True, I have a friend who is an eighth-generation Jerusalemite, and I knew a Jerusalem-based lawyer who said his family had been living in this part of the world at least since the early 17th century and, possibly, since the dawn of time. But, by and large, Israel is a definitive cultural melting pot, with dozens of languages used on a daily basis and across quotidian life spiced and colored by all manner of ethnic and religious baggage.
All of which makes the Transitional Object exhibition, currently on show at the Corinne Mamane Museum of Philistine Culture in Ashdod, all the more relevant and fascinating. The show, which runs until July 2021 was deftly curated by Galit Gaon and Tom Cohen, who came up with a surprisingly varied array of artifacts, collections, juxtapositions, mind-sets and cultural starting points.
“We are constantly on the move,” Gaon notes. “Sometimes it is a brief movement – you may be moving house, going away for a while, [or] going off for a vacation – and sometimes it is a long movement, temporary or permanent nomadism, [it may be a matter of] expulsion and migration.”
All that is pretty much as one might expect, across a range of life’s ebbing and flowing dynamics, but Gaon also refers to the chronological continuum.
“In individual and intergenerational movement, ongoing, in a quest to find a better future, people uproot themselves and hope to settle down again.”
There is, Gaon notes, always a price to pay.
“The constant movement we experience forces us to make complex decisions about the importance of tangible memories, and to reconsider their suitability for our life. A shirt which witnessed a first kiss will, ultimately, find itself in a secondhand store and will be swallowed up among the thousands of shirts that have other stories to tell.”
So, what are we saying here? To quote two icons of 20th century culture, American satirical writer Peter De Vries and French actress Simone Signoret, that nostalgia ain’t what it used to be? Or are we just adopting a different perspective on memory as portrayed by corporeal objects?  
Judging by the Transitional Object layout there is a lot to be said for revisiting our past, and examining how where we have come from can impact on where we are today, and where we are headed.
TRANSIENCE IS, naturally, a repetitive element of the show, with a little consumerism thrown in for good measure.
“The cell phone charger is, today, thought of as the least personal and most dispensable thing going,” Cohen observes as we take a look at Assaf Cohen’s Charged work. It is a fetching visual offering with a playful side to it.
“You can mix them and match them,” Cohen explains as she picks up one of the ceramic two-piece works and reassembles it with a part she takes from one of the other old-equals-new synergetic creations.
“The exhibition talks about wandering and longing, through the medium of contemporary design,” continues the young co-curator.
Sounds like a typical Jewish story, I note.
“It’s a human and universal story,” Cohen observes sagaciously and accurately.  
Cohen sees that timeline stretching much further back than the new showing on the lower level of the museum building.
“When we – Galit and I – were asked to curate the exhibition here, we were fascinated by what we saw upstairs,” Cohen says.
By “upstairs,” she was referring to the permanent archaeological collection on the ground floor that displays some of the riches of the eponymous civilization that lived in the environs of modern day Ashdod, and along the southern stretches of our coastline, for around 600 years from the 12th century BCE.
“That is about archaeology, and the Philistines who were here thousands of years ago, but it is the same discipline.”
Indeed it is. It is about humankind, and how and where we live, and what we create and consider to be of core value to our identity, as individuals and as communities, and what we might take with us if we had to, or wanted to, up stakes and set up somewhere completely different.
Efrat Dgani’s compelling Textillia set of hybrid fabrics which, Cohen explained, feeds off the artist’s own mixed cultural baggage and comprises random bits of cloth – some gorgeously designed – spells out the eclectic nature of the show. Then there is an attractive set of pottery items, courtesy of Shai Jerasi and Adi Tal, which incorporate soil taken from different parts of the country that also spells out the identity ethos in simple terms. Naama Oppenheim’s array of suspended ethereal looking ships – a structure large enough to house hundreds of people for long periods of time, but also a definitively mobile item – adds fuel to the idea of the transitory essence of home.
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