This month, graduating students across all departments at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem are showcasing their work at the Mount Scopus campus. There were highlights and lowlights among the hundreds of projects on display and some departments clearly put more effort into the accessibility and visitor experience of their exhibitions than others.
Signage was spotty and some departments were highly disorganized. Overall, however, spending several hours wandering through the long winding windowless hallways, peeking into classrooms and studios eagerly consuming original Israeli art, is an experience one cannot help but enjoy.
The Department of Jewelry and Fashion clearly stood out. Each of the 32 graduates worked with a faculty adviser to produce a creation that is designed “for and around the body,” per the department’s introductory blurb. Every student’s work was thoughtfully displayed and accompanied by a plaque with an explanation in English, Hebrew and Arabic, as well as the artist’s name and Instagram handle. Most of them also had business cards for visitors to take with them – a delightful professional touch.
Naama Altalef Blau’s In the Beginning of Love
Naama Altalef Blau’s In the Beginning of Love drew a crowd. Behind the glass were a series of round silver and gold-plated objects arranged in a circle, along with a video of the objects in action. They are the tools of Shabbat: candle holders (two for Shabbat candles and one for havdalah), a kiddush cup, a washing cup and a spice jar. What sets this project apart from traditional Judaica, apart from the pervasive roundness, is that each piece is designed to be used by two people at the same time.
The series was born of Blau’s experience as a religious woman married to a secular man – a relationship requiring particular thoughtfulness and intentionality on Shabbat. Her efforts to invite her husband into Shabbat were hindered by the objects, as they were designed for either one person or a whole family. Blau wanted a couple’s Shabbat. Each vessel is meant to be used by two people at the same time. The experience is neither totally individual, nor communal; it is intimate.
She also related the roundness to a sense of natural wholeness. She pointed out that the basic elements of our universe, from atoms to entire solar systems, are built on circles, orbits and spheres.
Shabbat itself is bounded by one entire rotation of the Earth in a foundational and meaningful roundness that holds a central place in Judaism, as well as secular life.
Nuriel Gavish Yamin's Fibro-Glam Kit
Nearby In the Beginning of Love hung Fibro-Glam Kit, suspended in mid-air in spiked glory. The piece, a corset with bustle pads, is a steampunk-inspired take on Victorian-style undergarments. But the design is reminiscent of a cage, or perhaps chain-link armor. Upon closer inspection, one can see that the hip pads are studded with aluminum pill containers. The artist, Nuriel Gavish Yamin, lives with fibromyalgia, a complex chronic pain disorder. she brought the pain of fibromyalgia into the third dimension.
She designed a series of ball-and-socket connectors that could be easily built into a variety of sturdy but flexible shapes. Once they were 3D-printed, she assembled the garment at home – the connectors were specifically designed for her to manipulate, despite her physical pain.
Rather than trying to sew with a needle and thread, or try to get buttons or clasps involved, she streamlined the process with her own comfort in mind. The final result, in Yamin’s words, “represent[s] the complexity, disability and difficulty posed by... fibromyalgia.”
Or Menahem's Gender Blender
In the same room as “Fibro-Glam Kit” was an equally fascinating display entitled “Gender Blender” by Or Menahem. The pieces were reminiscent of lingerie, with lots of Lycra, silk and hooks. The star element, in my opinion, was the bra purse. Two cups of a brassier were fastened together with an opening left at the top to create a receptacle and a chain of metal rings for carrying.
More than the aesthetic, the mere notion of using a brassiere to create a purse absolutely tickled me. One wearing a bra often carries one’s cell phone, lip stick or a miniature bottle containing one’s liquor of choice inside it. A bra handbag, from the perspective of an individual who uses their bra as a handbag already, is an absolute stroke of genius.
The quality of the shining stars redeemed the disorganization of the exhibition, overall. Incredible displays of talent, dedication and pure artistry shone across all departments. If you are in the mood for some light digging, you’ll surely find some diamonds in the rough.
The Graduate Exhibition will be on display at the Mount Scopus campus, as well as the Department of Architecture campus, until July 22.