נגישות
menu      
About Us
About Us
Exhibitions & Projects
Exhibitions & Projects
Education & Community
Education & Community
Archives
Archives
Residency
Residency
My lists
My lists
Advanced Search
Syntax
Search...
Instruction Manual
Opening Date
29/04/2017
Closing Date
15/08/2017
Curators
Assistant Curator
Text
Exhibition Designer
Graphics Designer
Production
Additional Credits and Supports

Hebrew Language editor: Rachel Peretz
English Translation: Margalit Rodgers

Supported by Mifal Hapais Arts and Culture Council.

Additional Information

Due to renovations, the exhibition will be open by appointment only starting June 28.  

On Saturday May 20 6, at 11:00am, we will hold a tour at the exhibitions Instruction Manual and a meeting with Udi Edelman, curator of the exhibition.

On opening night: a special concert by UKOIDM -
Ophir Ilzetzki, Daniel Meir, Uri Katzenstein

Opening hours during the first week:

Sunday 30.4 - 10:00-14:00
Monday 1.5 (Memorial Day) - closed
Tuesday 2.5 (Independence Day) - closed
Wednesday 3.5 - 14:00-18:00
Thursday 4.5 - 14:00-18:00

Events
Related Items
Show More
Related Content

In the 1970s, Israeli artists began searching for new forms of expression and alternative sites for artistic creation as a way to challenge the boundaries of art. The national and political upheavals in the wake of the 1967 War, through the 1973 War, to the 1982 Lebanon War, the international effects of the student protests in Paris, and the emergence of conceptual art, all constituted a catalyst for new artistic actions and experiments that sought to form a connection between art, life, and society. The inquiry underlying Instruction Manual focuses on artists going outside the gallery and studio space, and especially on how turning to the public domain formed new and immediate concrete relationships between artists and government entities and symbols, with soldiers and officials, and with citizens and residents.

Instruction Manual seeks to present familiar and significant works alongside less familiar ones and ones that exceeded beyond the period, and through them to examine what these artistic actions look like today, and what meaning they possess from the perspective of time. Over the years exhibitions have been mounted at the Israel Museum and the Tel Aviv Museum that reviewed the art of the 1970s and highlighted various distinctions emerging from it: attitude to the artist’s body, politicality, directing observation toward the world, and various aspects of conceptual art in general. The exhibition strives to examine these actions from two additional aspects: to reveal the forefathers of contemporary artists’ actions in the public domain, of artists acting in administrative and government frameworks, and in the civil-bureaucratic-governmental sphere; and to explore the unique position within which these artists acted in the 1970s and 80s: their initial understanding of the very possibility of art functioning from within and by means of life, what they freed themselves from with these actions, and what they were unable to break free from.

The conceptual position, venturing out of art’s “regular environment” and the connection between art and life, are revealed in the exhibition in a variety of ways. Actions created during the beginning of the conceptual wave are typified first and foremost by ephemeral, transitory events that left barely a trace at the site where they took place. Ariella Azoulay called them “assertion of presence”,[1] which is created from a principled and critical attitude to art. These were actions that did not occur before an audience; rather, their audience was a participant in the event and in effect sustained it by being present at the time and in the place in which it took place. On many occasions the involved parties did not appear in the documentation of the work itself, but only in its comprehensive description, in the explanation of the series of steps it comprised, or in the very possibility of its realization. However, the action cannot be understood without these intersecting entities. The artistic action appears as a one-time, singular possibility of encounter that the artist invites as a live occurrence.

These actions can be characterized by the new relationships formed between the artist and other entities: if up to the early 1970s the relationship between an artist and the governmental establishment was usually in the form of a commission – when the artist was asked to create a monument or painting for a particular site or event – with the emergence of conceptual art governmental entities ceased to function as patrons and became invitees to and attendees at the artistic action. It was a crucial moment and the beginning of relationships of a new kind between art, life, and politics. In these actions the artists broke free from the patron, which was manifested in the simplicity and fluidity of the artistic work and in its very presence, and they constituted the point of departure for a conceptual dynasty of artists who have since been acting with reference to government, but are not commissioned by it. Accordingly, Instruction Manual actually engages with that for which it is impossible to define instructions – the emergence of a new artistic language in the public domain, forging relationships from within and by means of the artistic action, and formulation of possibilities for action and operation in art in general, from here on in.

In the warp and weft of relationships between art and life this is not only the possibility of creating art that refers to life (and the public space), but also the possibility of creating “sense” in life. The very deviations in creating the action, that which does not possess regular meaning in place and time, is an attempt, transitory and limited as it may be, to dictate a possibility and meaning that did not previously exist. It is not a symbolic action, or at least not only such an action, but also the forging of new political-social-public relationships outside and through art, as the public space becomes a canvas on which each line can become a line of flight toward a new imagining of life, reality, and politics.

Going out into the public domain invited encounters with entities that were not accustomed to being part of artistic creation, and perhaps it is not surprising that many of the artistic actions during this period were created in encounters with soldiers, more than with any other governmental entity or representative. The Israeli public domain has always been a site in which the boundaries between civilian and military are blurred, since every citizen is a soldier and every space requires protection. For the soldiers these encounters were probably random, but for the artists they were deliberate. They were not random encounters in a kibbutz, an army base, or on the border, but the result of the artists directly approaching the soldiers and proposing cooperation and their participation in the action. Thus, the actions took the form of utilizing soldiers and officially using their presence at border points and in combat zones. Some actions were even carried out from the position of the artist-soldier himself. The reasons for this are many and varied, but the burden of the period should not be isolated from this choice; the public image of the soldiers and generals, the presence of the “people’s army” in the discourse and culture, the artists themselves as soldiers, and also the moral and social crisis that emerged with the occupation of the West Bank and imposition of control over the Palestinian population.

Most of the actions presented in the exhibition were created as a critical reaction to the political situation during those years, hand in hand with reflection concerning the boundaries of art itself. Some of the actions were actual demonstrations, and others sought to highlight a problem or question and challenge the “natural” order of reality. At the same time, it seems that most of the artists who created critical actions with regard to the political establishment in that period were afflicted on more than one occasion with partial awareness of their own positions and the unique possibility of acting in the public domain under the protection of art and the privileges of their class, ethnicity, and nationality. Who could execute or even imagine such actions at a given time vis-à-vis government entities or from within the governmental apparatuses themselves? What is the significance of artistic creation in uniform? Who is the wearer of the uniform prepared to listen to? Who is the leadership’s representative prepared to talk with? Who is prepared to conduct a dialogue with whom? On the one hand it may be stated that this very hybrid is a possibility for incitement and an opportunity to create a different source of authority for the involved entities, the soldiers and the officials, or at least a possibility to challenge the self-evident within which they act. On the other hand, when going out into the public domain it is important to also take into account those who are put at risk by such actions; those who cannot or are not permitted to act in a way that is possible for another.

Instruction Manual proposes an in-principle mapping of this series of actions and encounters as the definition of a point of departure for the way in which art asserts presence in public – the various forms of intervention in space, sense of community and building communities, and participation within and by means of institutions. Over the years this initial relationship between art, life, and society has changed. The encounter with government is different today, as is proximity to the centers of power. In an attempt to think about the relationships this kind of art can facilitate and create, we should also ask about the change that has occurred in practices, in the way contemporary artists engage in them, about the connection with tectonic shifts in Israeli society, about the position of art in relation to government and of government in relation to art.

 

          ~

 

1. Dov Or Ner, Pershing Missile, 1984

In 1984, Dov Or Ner (b. 1927) was invited to participate in an exhibition entitled “80 Years of Sculpture in Israel” at the Israel Museum. In this work, and in one he created the year before, Or Ner built life-size replicas of advanced ordnance. The fifteen-meter high “Pershing Missile” is a replica of an advanced American missile of the same name with nuclear warhead capabilities. A few months earlier the missile was installed in West Germany, an action that provoked a huge wave of public protest and almost caused war to break out between East and West. The dummy missile, made from bent and bound olive branches, was built in Kibbutz Hatzor by Or Ner and other kibbutz members. The sculpture was transported by truck and installed vertically between the museum and the Knesset: “Besides the ironic significance of choosing the olive tree as the material for building a weapon, [Or Ner] sought to underscore the collective dimension: the process of gathering the branches, preparing them, bending and making them flexible, required the cooperation of many others”, wrote researcher and curator Tali Tamir about the sculptor.[2]

 

2. Serge Spitzer, Exposure, 1984

Like Dov Or Ner’s missile, this work too was created for “80 Years of Sculpture in Israel” at the Israel Museum. Serge Spitzer (1951-2012) installed a military tank on the roof of the Jerusalem Theatre facing Mishkan HaNassi (official residence of the President of Israel) about two weeks before the general elections. Weighing several tons, the dummy tank, which was donated by an IDF unit, was raised onto the roof of the theatre with a huge crane, and remained there for two years after no one was prepared to bring it down or take it back. Viewers were unable to easily identify the tank since only its edges were visible. In a newspaper interview Spitzer explained that “by hiding it you sharpen the attitude of the viewer who loses meaning and scale. There are only rumors about a tank. For me a tank is a home, it’s the safest vehicle of all, a direct continuation of personal territory”.[3] For Spitzer it was an opportunity to create a metaphor for something that can see but cannot be seen.

 

3. Avital Geva, Meeting with Secretary General of the Histadrut Labor Federation, 1972

In 1972, together with Moshe Gershuni and Micha Ullman, Avital Geva (b. 1941) initiated a meeting with then Secretary General of the Histadrut Labor Federation Yitzhak Ben-Aharon. The documented meeting was held in early May, on a Saturday, in Kibbutz Givat Haim, and was one of a series of four or five meetings Geva held with Ben-Aharon in the course of about a year. The choice of the secretary general was not random; many considered Ben-Aharon a philosopher and prophet of the Zionist left who did not defer to the leadership’s narrow political thinking. What is the significance of an action by artists who converse with a national leader? They are not, after all, a group of citizens, involved activists, including artists, but rather a group that comes together from the field of art and from thinking about the meaning of the artistic action; a group that carries out political involvement from an artistic position. How is it even possible to imagine this kind of position that comes out of art into the field of political action for the first time in the 1970s? And what enabled art to pervade the political space in this way?

 

4. Gerard Marx, Jerusalem Shots, 1976

Gerard Marx (b. 1941) is one of the first artists to create conceptual art in Israel. Marx collaborated with Joshua Neustein and Georgette Batlle on the “Boots” (1969) and “Jerusalem River” (1971) projects. In the “Jerusalem Shots” action Marx photographed sites in different parts of the city – the Western Wall, Al-Aqsa Mosque, Mea Shearim, and the walls of the Old City. In 1976, during military reserve service at Kibbutz Merom Golan, he set up the photographs in a shooting range and together with other soldiers shot at them with M16 rifles and Uzi submachine guns, and the splatters of mud painted them in hues of gold. The work was created as part of the “Bringing Art to the Border Art” event which was held on 15 January 1976 in which Neustein took part with his “Territorial Imperative”. “Jerusalem Shots” is perhaps the most striking example of action out of the dual position of artist and soldier, which challenges both realms: art and combat.

 

5. Dov Or Ner, 1000 kg of Fish, 1973 + Discussions in the Orchard, 1975

In these two actions and on other occasions as well, Dov Or Ner created a dialogue with the people of his kibbutz by means of artistic action. In 1973, prior to Independence Day, Or Ner was asked to provide 1000 kg of fish for the festive kibbutz meal. Rather than cooking the fish in the kitchen, as was expected, Or Ner set up a big pool and invited the kibbutz members to catch the fish themselves, kill them, and clean them of their entrails in preparation for the meal.

The “Discussions in the Orchard” event in 1975 was held following the words of then Minister of Agriculture Aharon Uzan concerning Arabs working on Jewish farms. Or Ner initiated discussions with kibbutz members and orchard workers on the state of the industry and the Palestinian laborers. The discussions were held while the artist worked picking fruit, and in a meeting with all the kibbutz members. With these and other actions Or Ner transformed kibbutz and group life into an artistic event, and the kibbutz members into active participants.[4]

 

6. Pinchas Cohen Gan, Letters and Publications

Over the years, Pinchas Cohen Gan (b. 1942) wrote hundreds of responses, letters of criticism and complaint against journalists, curators and artists, academics, and government entities. His conceptual and theoretical work in art, which engaged with the concepts of border, refugeeism, and man, is an inseparable part of this series of writings in which he levels criticism, and at times literally launches verbal attacks, against colleagues and establishment entities. In this instance, life and art are one. The chain of correspondence is presented in anthologies put together by the artist, culminating in a book, “Art, Law, and the Social Order” (1999, independently published). In this book Cohen Gan summarizes his legal battle against Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and the lawsuit he filed in the High Court of Justice concerning the inherent discrimination against people of Mizrahi extraction in educational institutions, which exists with the state’s agreement and under its aegis, and is based, according to him, on prejudice and social stigma.

7. Sharon Keren, Application Documents for Change of Name and Address, 1974

In 1974, Sharon Keren (b. 1950) launched a series of applications to the Ministry of the Interior that developed into a direct dialogue with Israeli bureaucracy. The series comprises two principal actions: the first, Keren’s application to change his name to Fatma Khaled, which was denied, and the written dialogue that ensued and engaged, among other things, with questions of freedom and morality. In the second action, Keren submitted weekly applications to change his residential address in the course of several months. The action created a two-faceted situation: on the one hand, the state knows at any given moment where a citizen resides, and on the other, there is no way to contact him since there is no one address at which he can be located. Keren submitted the series of applications as a final project during his art studies at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, in which the series was presented for the first time.

8. Sharon Keren and Gabi Klasmer, Demonstrations and Ceremonies, 1973-1976 + Artists Demonstration in Hebron, 1979

In the early 1970s, Sharon Keren and Gabi Klasmer created a series of actions entitled “Gabi and Sharon”. The series included the “Medal of Courage and Medal of Valor Ceremony” in 1973, when they showed up at the national ceremony swathed in bandages and decked out in military medals reminiscent of the famous photograph featuring Ariel Sharon with a bandage around his head.[5] In another action, also in 1973, they organized a civil parade in Jerusalem, from Ben Yehuda Street to Zion Square, a few days before the Independence Day military parade which was due to be held in the same location. The artists and their partners in the action marched carrying banners depicting military shooting targets in human form. The parade was dispersed by the police, and the artists were arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer. After the 1973 War, which broke out the a few months later, the charges were dropped due to lack of interest to the public. In April 1974, Gabi and Sharon organized “A Meal for Withdrawal” opposite the Prime Minister’s official residence in Jerusalem. The well-attended meal was held in close proximity to hunger strikers demonstrating in favor of the Jewish settlements. In another event, which was held at the Israel Museum in 1976, Keren gave a lesson in the course of which he taught the audience how to make explosive devices in accordance with a Che Guevara booklet.

In another event, journalistic documentation of which is presented here, Dov Or Ner, Avital Geva, Igael Tumarkin, Moshe Gershuni, and other artists demonstrated in front of the Beit Hadassah settlement in Hebron. Geva brought to the action two calf heads from the abattoir at Kibbutz Ein Shemer, painted them gold, tied them to the roof of the kibbutz transit van, and drove to Hebron; Or Ner imprisoned himself in a cage.

9. Ezra Orion, Dust Hill, 1984

After prolonged service in the regular army and reserves, Ezra Orion (1934-2015) was invited to serve as the emergency officer at Ramon Air Force Base. There was a huge mound of earth on the site extending over an area of 100x200x22 m2 for the purpose of filling craters in the runways should they be hit by rockets. Orion, a creator of land art and “tectonic sculpture” according to his definition, instructed the bulldozer operator to create a large furrow in the middle of the mound of earth. In other works Orion regularly utilized his friends and colleagues from the army to create huge sculptures from concrete and natural stone. He also enlisted prime ministers, government ministers, and ambassadors to execute projects that were not of this world.

The first chapter of Monument/Action engages with Orion’s work and modes of action.

10. Pinchas Cohen Gan, Touching the Border, 1974

On 7 January 1974, four Israeli artists went to four of the country’s borders. Each of them marked the spot where he was stopped by the army by burying a lead ingot (0.4x100x4 cm) bearing information on the balance of military forces of the country across the border. The information was drawn from a report published in the 15 October 1973 issue of Time Magazine. Pinchas Cohen Gan went to the border with Jordan, Gabi Klasmer to the border with Egypt, Sharon Keren to the border with Lebanon, and Marc Scheps went to the border with Syria. Concurrently, Cohen Gan sent four letters to artists associations in the countries across the border asking them to undertake similar actions on their side of the border.

From the artist’s journal, 30 March 1974: “The border is printed as an inner line, and its marking is graphic-visual. The border of our strength is not territorial but cultural, a border between cultures, and the distance between them is infinitely greater than the geographic distance. The points at which you will be stopped are those marking the border. These are not fixed points, but are subject to political conditions and constantly changing situations. The significance of the Touching the Border action is purely spiritual. The inner border splitting the population of Jerusalem is the same as the interethnic border in Israel. Touching the Border is the posing of a question concerning a cultural and political fact”.

11. Pinchas Cohen Gan, Action in the Refugee Camp in Jericho, 1974

On 10 February 1974, Pinchas Cohen Gan carried out an action in the refugee camp located in Jericho’s northeast, near Hisham Palace. The camp had been virtually abandoned by its inhabitants after the war and declared a closed military zone. In the course of the action Cohen Gan delivered a lecture on “Israel in 2000” to an audience of two refugees, a handful of students who had accompanied him, and the sector commander, who had authorized the event in advance. In his lecture Cohen presented sketches of regional refugeeism conditions and said that “a refugee is person who cannot return to his homeland”. As part of the action a temporary shelter was built in the camp. Curator Marc Scheps wrote with reference to this action that Cohen Gan stages meaningful situations for which the surroundings serve as a backdrop, and thus he in effect creates a monologue whose aim is to define situations, not change them.[6]

From the artist’s journal, 10 February 1974: “This action was formulated over the past few years and actually took shape after the Yom Kippur War. The problem: giving spiritual and physical expression to the feelings of a person who is in a state of constant refugeeism. A legal ruling on the question of ‘who is a refugee’ or the UN’s definition of a refugee does not change his very existence and feelings regarding the territories in which he lived or through which he passed”.

23 April 1974: “This situation is the result of a balance between different entities in and outside our milieu”.

12. Dov Or Ner, Soil Exchange + Bread and War, 1973

Shortly after the 1973 War, Dov Or Ner created two actions, in both of which he utilized soldiers as a central component. In “Soil Exchange” he asked soldiers from Kibbutz Hatzor to collect soil in bags from the borders on which they were serving, and when they returned to empty the bags of soil onto the land of the kibbutz, and vice versa – bags containing soil from the kibbutz were sent with the soldiers to be scattered in the combat zones. In “Bread and War”, Or Ner traveled to Sinai following a report on an Egyptian military truck loaded with pita bread that had been abandoned during the fighting. With help from IDF soldiers, Or Ner buried some of the pitas they found, as well a loaf of challah bread baked in an Israeli bakery that he brought with him, in the soil of Sinai. The core of the action was built around the proximity and tension between the Hebrew words for “bread” (lehem) and “war” (milhama).

 

          ~

 

Instruction Manual is presented as part of the activities of the Institute for Public Presence, and as the second chapter in the Monument/Action series that examines strategies and forms of artistic action in the local public domain during the twentieth century, and proposes contexts and responses in contemporary art.

 

Curator: Udi Edelman

English translation: Margalit Rodgers

The Monument/Action exhibition series is the product of collaboration between Udi Edelman and Yael Messer

 

 

 

[1]  Ariella Azoulay, The Place of Art, Studio 40, January 1993 (Hebrew).

[2]  Dov Or Ner, Actions in a Nearby Planet, 1970-2070. Researched, written, and edited by Tali Tamir, Hakibbutz Hameuchad Publishing House (2014), p. 174 (Hebrew).

[3]  Hezy Leskly, Israeli Buffalo, Ha'Ir - Tel Aviv Weekly, 26.10.1984 (Hebrew).

[4]  Dov Or Ner, ibid, p. 204.

[5]  On the connection to the image of Sharon see Galia Yahav, Exorcising a Dybbuk: Israeli Art’s Ongoing Fascination with Ariel Sharon, Haaretz, 14.01.2014.

[6]  Marc Scheps, Pinchas Cohen Gan – Actions, Musag 1, April 1975.

Read more...
T
Say Something about this...
Ctrl+Enter To post
Post
Discard
המרכז הישראלי לאמנות דיגיטלית חולון(View)
Category...
About Us
Exhibitions & Projects
Education & Community
Archives
Residency
My lists
Residency
My lists

 The CDA's archives are operating with the support of the Ostrovsky Family Fund and Artis
 

Instruction Manual

Hebrew Language editor: Rachel Peretz
English Translation: Margalit Rodgers

Supported by Mifal Hapais Arts and Culture Council.

Due to renovations, the exhibition will be open by appointment only starting June 28.  

On Saturday May 20 6, at 11:00am, we will hold a tour at the exhibitions Instruction Manual and a meeting with Udi Edelman, curator of the exhibition.

On opening night: a special concert by UKOIDM -
Ophir Ilzetzki, Daniel Meir, Uri Katzenstein

Opening hours during the first week:

Sunday 30.4 - 10:00-14:00
Monday 1.5 (Memorial Day) - closed
Tuesday 2.5 (Independence Day) - closed
Wednesday 3.5 - 14:00-18:00
Thursday 4.5 - 14:00-18:00

In the 1970s, Israeli artists began searching for new forms of expression and alternative sites for artistic creation as a way to challenge the boundaries of art. The national and political upheavals in the wake of the 1967 War, through the 1973 War, to the 1982 Lebanon War, the international effects of the student protests in Paris, and the emergence of conceptual art, all constituted a catalyst for new artistic actions and experiments that sought to form a connection between art, life, and society. The inquiry underlying Instruction Manual focuses on artists going outside the gallery and studio space, and especially on how turning to the public domain formed new and immediate concrete relationships between artists and government entities and symbols, with soldiers and officials, and with citizens and residents.

Instruction Manual seeks to present familiar and significant works alongside less familiar ones and ones that exceeded beyond the period, and through them to examine what these artistic actions look like today, and what meaning they possess from the perspective of time. Over the years exhibitions have been mounted at the Israel Museum and the Tel Aviv Museum that reviewed the art of the 1970s and highlighted various distinctions emerging from it: attitude to the artist’s body, politicality, directing observation toward the world, and various aspects of conceptual art in general. The exhibition strives to examine these actions from two additional aspects: to reveal the forefathers of contemporary artists’ actions in the public domain, of artists acting in administrative and government frameworks, and in the civil-bureaucratic-governmental sphere; and to explore the unique position within which these artists acted in the 1970s and 80s: their initial understanding of the very possibility of art functioning from within and by means of life, what they freed themselves from with these actions, and what they were unable to break free from.

The conceptual position, venturing out of art’s “regular environment” and the connection between art and life, are revealed in the exhibition in a variety of ways. Actions created during the beginning of the conceptual wave are typified first and foremost by ephemeral, transitory events that left barely a trace at the site where they took place. Ariella Azoulay called them “assertion of presence”,[1] which is created from a principled and critical attitude to art. These were actions that did not occur before an audience; rather, their audience was a participant in the event and in effect sustained it by being present at the time and in the place in which it took place. On many occasions the involved parties did not appear in the documentation of the work itself, but only in its comprehensive description, in the explanation of the series of steps it comprised, or in the very possibility of its realization. However, the action cannot be understood without these intersecting entities. The artistic action appears as a one-time, singular possibility of encounter that the artist invites as a live occurrence.

These actions can be characterized by the new relationships formed between the artist and other entities: if up to the early 1970s the relationship between an artist and the governmental establishment was usually in the form of a commission – when the artist was asked to create a monument or painting for a particular site or event – with the emergence of conceptual art governmental entities ceased to function as patrons and became invitees to and attendees at the artistic action. It was a crucial moment and the beginning of relationships of a new kind between art, life, and politics. In these actions the artists broke free from the patron, which was manifested in the simplicity and fluidity of the artistic work and in its very presence, and they constituted the point of departure for a conceptual dynasty of artists who have since been acting with reference to government, but are not commissioned by it. Accordingly, Instruction Manual actually engages with that for which it is impossible to define instructions – the emergence of a new artistic language in the public domain, forging relationships from within and by means of the artistic action, and formulation of possibilities for action and operation in art in general, from here on in.

In the warp and weft of relationships between art and life this is not only the possibility of creating art that refers to life (and the public space), but also the possibility of creating “sense” in life. The very deviations in creating the action, that which does not possess regular meaning in place and time, is an attempt, transitory and limited as it may be, to dictate a possibility and meaning that did not previously exist. It is not a symbolic action, or at least not only such an action, but also the forging of new political-social-public relationships outside and through art, as the public space becomes a canvas on which each line can become a line of flight toward a new imagining of life, reality, and politics.

Going out into the public domain invited encounters with entities that were not accustomed to being part of artistic creation, and perhaps it is not surprising that many of the artistic actions during this period were created in encounters with soldiers, more than with any other governmental entity or representative. The Israeli public domain has always been a site in which the boundaries between civilian and military are blurred, since every citizen is a soldier and every space requires protection. For the soldiers these encounters were probably random, but for the artists they were deliberate. They were not random encounters in a kibbutz, an army base, or on the border, but the result of the artists directly approaching the soldiers and proposing cooperation and their participation in the action. Thus, the actions took the form of utilizing soldiers and officially using their presence at border points and in combat zones. Some actions were even carried out from the position of the artist-soldier himself. The reasons for this are many and varied, but the burden of the period should not be isolated from this choice; the public image of the soldiers and generals, the presence of the “people’s army” in the discourse and culture, the artists themselves as soldiers, and also the moral and social crisis that emerged with the occupation of the West Bank and imposition of control over the Palestinian population.

Most of the actions presented in the exhibition were created as a critical reaction to the political situation during those years, hand in hand with reflection concerning the boundaries of art itself. Some of the actions were actual demonstrations, and others sought to highlight a problem or question and challenge the “natural” order of reality. At the same time, it seems that most of the artists who created critical actions with regard to the political establishment in that period were afflicted on more than one occasion with partial awareness of their own positions and the unique possibility of acting in the public domain under the protection of art and the privileges of their class, ethnicity, and nationality. Who could execute or even imagine such actions at a given time vis-à-vis government entities or from within the governmental apparatuses themselves? What is the significance of artistic creation in uniform? Who is the wearer of the uniform prepared to listen to? Who is the leadership’s representative prepared to talk with? Who is prepared to conduct a dialogue with whom? On the one hand it may be stated that this very hybrid is a possibility for incitement and an opportunity to create a different source of authority for the involved entities, the soldiers and the officials, or at least a possibility to challenge the self-evident within which they act. On the other hand, when going out into the public domain it is important to also take into account those who are put at risk by such actions; those who cannot or are not permitted to act in a way that is possible for another.

Instruction Manual proposes an in-principle mapping of this series of actions and encounters as the definition of a point of departure for the way in which art asserts presence in public – the various forms of intervention in space, sense of community and building communities, and participation within and by means of institutions. Over the years this initial relationship between art, life, and society has changed. The encounter with government is different today, as is proximity to the centers of power. In an attempt to think about the relationships this kind of art can facilitate and create, we should also ask about the change that has occurred in practices, in the way contemporary artists engage in them, about the connection with tectonic shifts in Israeli society, about the position of art in relation to government and of government in relation to art.

 

          ~

 

1. Dov Or Ner, Pershing Missile, 1984

In 1984, Dov Or Ner (b. 1927) was invited to participate in an exhibition entitled “80 Years of Sculpture in Israel” at the Israel Museum. In this work, and in one he created the year before, Or Ner built life-size replicas of advanced ordnance. The fifteen-meter high “Pershing Missile” is a replica of an advanced American missile of the same name with nuclear warhead capabilities. A few months earlier the missile was installed in West Germany, an action that provoked a huge wave of public protest and almost caused war to break out between East and West. The dummy missile, made from bent and bound olive branches, was built in Kibbutz Hatzor by Or Ner and other kibbutz members. The sculpture was transported by truck and installed vertically between the museum and the Knesset: “Besides the ironic significance of choosing the olive tree as the material for building a weapon, [Or Ner] sought to underscore the collective dimension: the process of gathering the branches, preparing them, bending and making them flexible, required the cooperation of many others”, wrote researcher and curator Tali Tamir about the sculptor.[2]

 

2. Serge Spitzer, Exposure, 1984

Like Dov Or Ner’s missile, this work too was created for “80 Years of Sculpture in Israel” at the Israel Museum. Serge Spitzer (1951-2012) installed a military tank on the roof of the Jerusalem Theatre facing Mishkan HaNassi (official residence of the President of Israel) about two weeks before the general elections. Weighing several tons, the dummy tank, which was donated by an IDF unit, was raised onto the roof of the theatre with a huge crane, and remained there for two years after no one was prepared to bring it down or take it back. Viewers were unable to easily identify the tank since only its edges were visible. In a newspaper interview Spitzer explained that “by hiding it you sharpen the attitude of the viewer who loses meaning and scale. There are only rumors about a tank. For me a tank is a home, it’s the safest vehicle of all, a direct continuation of personal territory”.[3] For Spitzer it was an opportunity to create a metaphor for something that can see but cannot be seen.

 

3. Avital Geva, Meeting with Secretary General of the Histadrut Labor Federation, 1972

In 1972, together with Moshe Gershuni and Micha Ullman, Avital Geva (b. 1941) initiated a meeting with then Secretary General of the Histadrut Labor Federation Yitzhak Ben-Aharon. The documented meeting was held in early May, on a Saturday, in Kibbutz Givat Haim, and was one of a series of four or five meetings Geva held with Ben-Aharon in the course of about a year. The choice of the secretary general was not random; many considered Ben-Aharon a philosopher and prophet of the Zionist left who did not defer to the leadership’s narrow political thinking. What is the significance of an action by artists who converse with a national leader? They are not, after all, a group of citizens, involved activists, including artists, but rather a group that comes together from the field of art and from thinking about the meaning of the artistic action; a group that carries out political involvement from an artistic position. How is it even possible to imagine this kind of position that comes out of art into the field of political action for the first time in the 1970s? And what enabled art to pervade the political space in this way?

 

4. Gerard Marx, Jerusalem Shots, 1976

Gerard Marx (b. 1941) is one of the first artists to create conceptual art in Israel. Marx collaborated with Joshua Neustein and Georgette Batlle on the “Boots” (1969) and “Jerusalem River” (1971) projects. In the “Jerusalem Shots” action Marx photographed sites in different parts of the city – the Western Wall, Al-Aqsa Mosque, Mea Shearim, and the walls of the Old City. In 1976, during military reserve service at Kibbutz Merom Golan, he set up the photographs in a shooting range and together with other soldiers shot at them with M16 rifles and Uzi submachine guns, and the splatters of mud painted them in hues of gold. The work was created as part of the “Bringing Art to the Border Art” event which was held on 15 January 1976 in which Neustein took part with his “Territorial Imperative”. “Jerusalem Shots” is perhaps the most striking example of action out of the dual position of artist and soldier, which challenges both realms: art and combat.

 

5. Dov Or Ner, 1000 kg of Fish, 1973 + Discussions in the Orchard, 1975

In these two actions and on other occasions as well, Dov Or Ner created a dialogue with the people of his kibbutz by means of artistic action. In 1973, prior to Independence Day, Or Ner was asked to provide 1000 kg of fish for the festive kibbutz meal. Rather than cooking the fish in the kitchen, as was expected, Or Ner set up a big pool and invited the kibbutz members to catch the fish themselves, kill them, and clean them of their entrails in preparation for the meal.

The “Discussions in the Orchard” event in 1975 was held following the words of then Minister of Agriculture Aharon Uzan concerning Arabs working on Jewish farms. Or Ner initiated discussions with kibbutz members and orchard workers on the state of the industry and the Palestinian laborers. The discussions were held while the artist worked picking fruit, and in a meeting with all the kibbutz members. With these and other actions Or Ner transformed kibbutz and group life into an artistic event, and the kibbutz members into active participants.[4]

 

6. Pinchas Cohen Gan, Letters and Publications

Over the years, Pinchas Cohen Gan (b. 1942) wrote hundreds of responses, letters of criticism and complaint against journalists, curators and artists, academics, and government entities. His conceptual and theoretical work in art, which engaged with the concepts of border, refugeeism, and man, is an inseparable part of this series of writings in which he levels criticism, and at times literally launches verbal attacks, against colleagues and establishment entities. In this instance, life and art are one. The chain of correspondence is presented in anthologies put together by the artist, culminating in a book, “Art, Law, and the Social Order” (1999, independently published). In this book Cohen Gan summarizes his legal battle against Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and the lawsuit he filed in the High Court of Justice concerning the inherent discrimination against people of Mizrahi extraction in educational institutions, which exists with the state’s agreement and under its aegis, and is based, according to him, on prejudice and social stigma.

7. Sharon Keren, Application Documents for Change of Name and Address, 1974

In 1974, Sharon Keren (b. 1950) launched a series of applications to the Ministry of the Interior that developed into a direct dialogue with Israeli bureaucracy. The series comprises two principal actions: the first, Keren’s application to change his name to Fatma Khaled, which was denied, and the written dialogue that ensued and engaged, among other things, with questions of freedom and morality. In the second action, Keren submitted weekly applications to change his residential address in the course of several months. The action created a two-faceted situation: on the one hand, the state knows at any given moment where a citizen resides, and on the other, there is no way to contact him since there is no one address at which he can be located. Keren submitted the series of applications as a final project during his art studies at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, in which the series was presented for the first time.

8. Sharon Keren and Gabi Klasmer, Demonstrations and Ceremonies, 1973-1976 + Artists Demonstration in Hebron, 1979

In the early 1970s, Sharon Keren and Gabi Klasmer created a series of actions entitled “Gabi and Sharon”. The series included the “Medal of Courage and Medal of Valor Ceremony” in 1973, when they showed up at the national ceremony swathed in bandages and decked out in military medals reminiscent of the famous photograph featuring Ariel Sharon with a bandage around his head.[5] In another action, also in 1973, they organized a civil parade in Jerusalem, from Ben Yehuda Street to Zion Square, a few days before the Independence Day military parade which was due to be held in the same location. The artists and their partners in the action marched carrying banners depicting military shooting targets in human form. The parade was dispersed by the police, and the artists were arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer. After the 1973 War, which broke out the a few months later, the charges were dropped due to lack of interest to the public. In April 1974, Gabi and Sharon organized “A Meal for Withdrawal” opposite the Prime Minister’s official residence in Jerusalem. The well-attended meal was held in close proximity to hunger strikers demonstrating in favor of the Jewish settlements. In another event, which was held at the Israel Museum in 1976, Keren gave a lesson in the course of which he taught the audience how to make explosive devices in accordance with a Che Guevara booklet.

In another event, journalistic documentation of which is presented here, Dov Or Ner, Avital Geva, Igael Tumarkin, Moshe Gershuni, and other artists demonstrated in front of the Beit Hadassah settlement in Hebron. Geva brought to the action two calf heads from the abattoir at Kibbutz Ein Shemer, painted them gold, tied them to the roof of the kibbutz transit van, and drove to Hebron; Or Ner imprisoned himself in a cage.

9. Ezra Orion, Dust Hill, 1984

After prolonged service in the regular army and reserves, Ezra Orion (1934-2015) was invited to serve as the emergency officer at Ramon Air Force Base. There was a huge mound of earth on the site extending over an area of 100x200x22 m2 for the purpose of filling craters in the runways should they be hit by rockets. Orion, a creator of land art and “tectonic sculpture” according to his definition, instructed the bulldozer operator to create a large furrow in the middle of the mound of earth. In other works Orion regularly utilized his friends and colleagues from the army to create huge sculptures from concrete and natural stone. He also enlisted prime ministers, government ministers, and ambassadors to execute projects that were not of this world.

The first chapter of Monument/Action engages with Orion’s work and modes of action.

10. Pinchas Cohen Gan, Touching the Border, 1974

On 7 January 1974, four Israeli artists went to four of the country’s borders. Each of them marked the spot where he was stopped by the army by burying a lead ingot (0.4x100x4 cm) bearing information on the balance of military forces of the country across the border. The information was drawn from a report published in the 15 October 1973 issue of Time Magazine. Pinchas Cohen Gan went to the border with Jordan, Gabi Klasmer to the border with Egypt, Sharon Keren to the border with Lebanon, and Marc Scheps went to the border with Syria. Concurrently, Cohen Gan sent four letters to artists associations in the countries across the border asking them to undertake similar actions on their side of the border.

From the artist’s journal, 30 March 1974: “The border is printed as an inner line, and its marking is graphic-visual. The border of our strength is not territorial but cultural, a border between cultures, and the distance between them is infinitely greater than the geographic distance. The points at which you will be stopped are those marking the border. These are not fixed points, but are subject to political conditions and constantly changing situations. The significance of the Touching the Border action is purely spiritual. The inner border splitting the population of Jerusalem is the same as the interethnic border in Israel. Touching the Border is the posing of a question concerning a cultural and political fact”.

11. Pinchas Cohen Gan, Action in the Refugee Camp in Jericho, 1974

On 10 February 1974, Pinchas Cohen Gan carried out an action in the refugee camp located in Jericho’s northeast, near Hisham Palace. The camp had been virtually abandoned by its inhabitants after the war and declared a closed military zone. In the course of the action Cohen Gan delivered a lecture on “Israel in 2000” to an audience of two refugees, a handful of students who had accompanied him, and the sector commander, who had authorized the event in advance. In his lecture Cohen presented sketches of regional refugeeism conditions and said that “a refugee is person who cannot return to his homeland”. As part of the action a temporary shelter was built in the camp. Curator Marc Scheps wrote with reference to this action that Cohen Gan stages meaningful situations for which the surroundings serve as a backdrop, and thus he in effect creates a monologue whose aim is to define situations, not change them.[6]

From the artist’s journal, 10 February 1974: “This action was formulated over the past few years and actually took shape after the Yom Kippur War. The problem: giving spiritual and physical expression to the feelings of a person who is in a state of constant refugeeism. A legal ruling on the question of ‘who is a refugee’ or the UN’s definition of a refugee does not change his very existence and feelings regarding the territories in which he lived or through which he passed”.

23 April 1974: “This situation is the result of a balance between different entities in and outside our milieu”.

12. Dov Or Ner, Soil Exchange + Bread and War, 1973

Shortly after the 1973 War, Dov Or Ner created two actions, in both of which he utilized soldiers as a central component. In “Soil Exchange” he asked soldiers from Kibbutz Hatzor to collect soil in bags from the borders on which they were serving, and when they returned to empty the bags of soil onto the land of the kibbutz, and vice versa – bags containing soil from the kibbutz were sent with the soldiers to be scattered in the combat zones. In “Bread and War”, Or Ner traveled to Sinai following a report on an Egyptian military truck loaded with pita bread that had been abandoned during the fighting. With help from IDF soldiers, Or Ner buried some of the pitas they found, as well a loaf of challah bread baked in an Israeli bakery that he brought with him, in the soil of Sinai. The core of the action was built around the proximity and tension between the Hebrew words for “bread” (lehem) and “war” (milhama).

 

          ~

 

Instruction Manual is presented as part of the activities of the Institute for Public Presence, and as the second chapter in the Monument/Action series that examines strategies and forms of artistic action in the local public domain during the twentieth century, and proposes contexts and responses in contemporary art.

 

Curator: Udi Edelman

English translation: Margalit Rodgers

The Monument/Action exhibition series is the product of collaboration between Udi Edelman and Yael Messer

 

 

 

[1]  Ariella Azoulay, The Place of Art, Studio 40, January 1993 (Hebrew).

[2]  Dov Or Ner, Actions in a Nearby Planet, 1970-2070. Researched, written, and edited by Tali Tamir, Hakibbutz Hameuchad Publishing House (2014), p. 174 (Hebrew).

[3]  Hezy Leskly, Israeli Buffalo, Ha'Ir - Tel Aviv Weekly, 26.10.1984 (Hebrew).

[4]  Dov Or Ner, ibid, p. 204.

[5]  On the connection to the image of Sharon see Galia Yahav, Exorcising a Dybbuk: Israeli Art’s Ongoing Fascination with Ariel Sharon, Haaretz, 14.01.2014.

[6]  Marc Scheps, Pinchas Cohen Gan – Actions, Musag 1, April 1975.

 The CDA's archives are operating with the support of the Ostrovsky Family Fund and Artis
 

 The CDA's archives are operating with the support of the Ostrovsky Family Fund and Artis