Touching base

I don’t at all subscribe to the clichéd nothing that artists have to suffer. Artists’ work should be appreciated. I don’t see much point in enjoying an artist’s work or performance, and then he goes back to waiting on tables. Artists need to live respectably, too. – Roy Aviram

abandoned army base art 370 (photo credit: courtesy)
abandoned army base art 370
(photo credit: courtesy)
The biblical view of the military to nondestructive transformation ethos, in the Book of Isaiah, refers to reassigning swords as plowshares and converting spears into pruning hooks. While the facilities Roy Aviram and his pals are due to make over next Friday and Saturday are no longer operational, the concept still fits.
The venture goes by the name of Tzivei Basis (Base Colors), and was initiated by Lior Ainnes and Oren Fischer in 2012. Last year’s artistic escapade involved several dozen artists from all over Israel descending on an abandoned Syrian army camp on the Golan Heights, and turning the grim-looking, dilapidated bunch of ruins into a colorful and energized artistic installation.
This year, Aviram, Ainnes, Fischer and Ido Oren will lead their merry band of creative minds and hands on a similar spirit- and aesthetics-changing exercise at a former IDF base on the Lebanese border, near Metulla. The artist lineup includes several dozen creators from across a range of disciplines, including painter Bosem Harel; painter and sculptor Assi Meshullam; painter and illustrator Ido Frank; and painter and video artist Keren Paz. There will be plenty of musical support for the creative visual process, courtesy of a DJ lineup that includes Rudy Kisler, Gota Fatal and Hadar Zilberstein, and there will be even be a dance slot. The fruits of the artists’ individual and collective labors will be documented by photographer Digi Deckel.
It seems that Fischer is the “culprit.” “Oren thought up the idea last year, when he was on the Golan Heights and saw the old Syrian base and thought something should be done to spruce it up,” explains Aviram. “He is always coming up with great, crazy ideas, and he and Lior ran with it.”
Last year’s project was such a success, at least in terms of creativity and artist response, that Fischer and Ainnes decided to replicate the effort this year, and brought Oren and Aviram into the fray.
Of course, the problem with alternative cultural projects, especially when they take place from the mainstream crowd in the center of the country, is the financial reality. Aviram said they have been doing their damnedest to make ends meet. “We have been trying to raise funds via the Headstart web site. So far [as of this Sunday], we have raised around NIS 21,000, and we are laying out NIS 25,000, so [that is what] we are really up against. We really hope we get some more donations, and lots of people are volunteering for this.”
Aviram says that it is about more than avoiding paying out of pocket. “None of us is wealthy, but first and foremost, we want to make sure that the artists get paid for their work, even if it is not very much. We have got all sorts of expenses to cover – generators, transportation materials, etc. – but I don’t at all subscribe to the clichéd nothing that artists have to suffer.
Artists’ work should be appreciated. I don’t see much point in enjoying an artist’s work or performance, and then he goes back to waiting on tables. Artists need to live respectably, too.”
When it comes to contrasts, there cannot be many as stark as turning a site whose sole purpose is to keep the military wheels turning smoothly into a feast of aesthetics.
Aviram initially addresses the visual issue.
“Aesthetics is, I think, a matter of how the beholder considers them,” he states.
But surely there must be more to Tzivei Basis than merely offering whoever makes it up the Galilee panhandle some pretty and thought-provoking spectacle.
“I think the message we are trying to get across here is about engaging in culture, culture of a different kind, and [particularly] this kind of venture in the country’s geographic periphery – to my mind, we are definitely not talking about the social periphery here – where the state resources don’t get to cross some geographic line, neither to the North nor to the South.”
Aviram says the lack of regional funding uniformity is having a damaging effect, and that he has firsthand experience with this. “That’s why artists relocate from the periphery to Tel Aviv and other places in the Center of the country. My wife and I both spent several years up North – I studied at Tel Hai College for four years, and my wife is a jewelry designer and she couldn’t make any headway up North. So we moved to Tel Aviv, and we hope to get a start over two years, and then to realize our dream of living up North and move back with something under our belts.”
Aviram – who is not an artist himself, and is taking care of much of the logistics of Tzivei Basis – adds that he and his friends are hoping to use next week’s activities to achieve an energy switch at the old IDF base. “We have all served in the army, and most of us were in combat units, so we all have some emotional and other baggage connected to this project. Each of us can take this activity where he or she wants. I can tell you that the artists involved in Tzivei Basis span a very wide spectrum of political views.”
For some of the participants, next week’s artistic undertaking will hit very close to home. “Some of the artists actually served at the base,” says Aviram. “And when we did the preliminary tour of the place, there were cries of, ‘Hey! I slept here,’ or “I remember what I did here,’ and I think the emotional baggage this project is eliciting from them is the clear statement here.
“I don’t know if this is a sort of corrective or curative experience for them. You can just say it is an experience of a different kind.”
Members of the general public are invited to witness the creative process at the abandoned base, which is located between Metulla and nearby Kfar Yuval. There will be signposts on the main road leading to Metulla.
For more information: 054-645-0147 (Aviram), 052-224-1313 (Fischer), and 054-452- 7186 (Ainnes).