New book and exhibition deal with art and the Rabin assassination

Driving back to Jerusalem on the night of November 5, 1995, the artist Michael Kovner was in high spirits. "I had been to the demonstration, and was going back to Jerusalem," he recalled in a recent interview when asked where he had been on the night of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination. "We didn't open the radio on the way, and were in a very good mood. We got home and then heard about it. They said he was in a critical state, and I immediately understood that it was over." Creators in Overburden: Rabin's Assassination, Art & Politics, in which the interview with Kovner appears, contains over two dozen interviews with prominent Israeli artists about the impact of the Rabin assassination on their work, and about the relationship between art, terror, and culture. A related exhibition, "November 4, 1995: Murder in Retrospective," will open on November 10 at the Bezalel gallery in Tel Aviv. "During the period preceding the assassination," Kovner recalled, "I called my paintings 'The End of the Dream.' I had a feeling, it was the end of a very difficult period of incitement. There was something terrible in the air, and I had the sense it was the end of a period that would not return." When she began researching the subject three years ago, Dr. Dana Arieli-Horowitz, the author of Creators in Overburden and the head of the history and theory unit at the Bezalel Academy of Art an Design, had no idea she was gong to write a book. "One of the last things I could imagine was that I would discover such a wide range of artists who voluntarily took up the subject," Arieli-Horowitz told The Jerusalem Post. "I didn't imagine that the Rabin assassination, which took place in 1995, at the height of an individualist and post-Zionist moment, would lead so many artists to react." Ten years after the assassination, according to this author, Rabin's death has been largely erased from Israeli politics and from the public sphere at large. "There is what I call the short-term commemoration that took place immediately after the assassination," she explained. "Every junction, school, and bridge was named after Rabin, but that doesn't mean that his death was actually internalized by Israel's collective consciousness. The rapid succession of events in Israel made us forget the assassination almost entirely, and this fact in itself requires us to stop and think a decade later." According to Arieli-Horowitz, in order to understand the long-term impact of the Rabin assassination on Israeli culture in general and on its political culture in particular, we need to turn and look at the art that has been made here over the past decade. "It is the artists, rather than the politicians, who truly made an attempt to come to terms with this national trauma," she said. The exhibition, which Arieli-Horowitz co-curated with Dalia Manor, also will be attended by Dalia Rabin, who spoke to the author at length about the assassination and its aftermath. In addition to works by the artists interviewed in the book, it will also include a work by Avner Bar-Hama. To the best of her knowledge, Arieli-Horowitz said, Bar-Hama, who recently created a series of artworks in protest against the disengagement from Gaza, is the only artist identified with the political right in Israel who has created art shaped by the Rabin assassination. In addition, the exhibition will include works by younger Israeli artists now in their 20s, whose work, according to Arieli-Horowitz, is more "transgressive and in-your-face." Nevertheless, she said, her interviews with leading Israeli artists such as Moshe Gershuni, Yigal Tumarkin, and Pinchas Cohen Gan have led her to conclude that "The post-Zionist or a-Zionist surface is not as thick as we thought. "At the end of the day, most of the messages in the art works in question are Zionist ones," she said.