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Tel Hai 83 Event: Israeli Documenta

Tali Kayam

 

The Tel Hai 83: Contemporary Art Meeting was held between August 31st and September 3rd, 1983. This time, the Upper Galilee Regional Council, which already represented 30 kibbutzim, was joined by a number of donors from the public and private sectors to learn from the success of the first Tel Hai event: Discount Group, the art department from the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Culture and Education division of the national trade union and the cultural fund “America Israel” and other, private organizations.

This time, Amnon Barzel’s agenda of positioning Tel Hai as a central stage was clearly stated in the catalog: “The power of the Tel Hai meetings speaks to the transparency of the myth of artistic centralization and the possibility of establishing another, additional artistic center in the geographic periphery.”[1]

“The fact that the meeting is the result of the initiative, organization and execution of the artists from Tel Hai College presents an alternative to the current artistic institutional system, just as the content of the meeting establishes an alternative to the museum as a socio-cultural concept, without negating its function in the situation in which it operates,” he added, noting that some of the works this time were “installations in interior spaces.”[2]

This time, the connection with the earth was seen through a socio-geographic prism. The idea of bringing the exhibition closer to the environment in which it is displayed, which had become increasingly resonant overseas, continued in this edition of the Tel Hai events, and Barzel invited artists he had met at documenta 6, those whom he eventually invited to exhibit in the sculpture garden which he established at the Villa Celle in the Pistoia province of Italy. Indeed the establishment of that sculpture garden, curated by Barzel, was one of the unofficial reasons for holding the event in 1983 and not 1982 as initially planned.[3] This was also how we came to find Richard Serra and Mauro Staccioli among the list of exhibitors’ names, whose works were put up at different stages in the same sculpture garden.[4] It is interesting how these artists’ pieces served the agenda of establishing Tel Hai as a new center, from their perceptions of the environment and material, through to the outspoken criticism regarding the practices of mapping and marking boundaries: “The relationship between the context and the content is similar to the paradox of the chicken and the egg. In order to be effective, my work must break away from existing content in the field. One method of adding to the existing context, and thereby changing the content, is the analysis and merging of unique environmental components into boundaries, edges, structures and paths. Streets are characteristic lines through the site. The land is redefined, not represented anew.”[5] Staccioli’s work, including the piece ‘Untitled’ (1983), which was exhibited at the Tel Hai Meeting, was seen as “Sculptural Intervention,” relying on historical research of the characteristics of the place where he works and exhibits, and the sculptures serving as a means of marking and mapping.[6]

The mapping, marking, and stretching of borders was also investigated by the Israeli artists who participated in this edition of the event. In her work ‘Fence Labyrinth ’ (1983), Hanina Neufeld chose to create a sculptural installation using wicker fences arranged into a spiral shape. In the political context, a connection can be made between the piece and the border fence which has delineated the lives of the kibbutzim and residents of the Galilee since the end of the 1960s and its process of change in parallel with the development of the Tel Hai events.[7] Noam Rabinovitch, of Kibbutz Dafna, who lived in Beit Hashita at that time, also erected fences but in reference to existing cattle fences within the kibbutz.

The works of the participating kibbutz artists seemed to seek to present local myths as universal, of the kind that represent ancient cultures, and return to our roots in the land. For instance, David Fine, one of the teachers at the Arts Institute, created an arch from basalt stones, not connected by any material. The catalog text again suggests a metaphor for the situation of kibbutz society and perhaps of Israeli society in general: “The basalt rocks in the arch hold one another up without any external connection or reinforcement, they guarantee one another and if one piece slips it will make the entire structure collapse.”[8]

Yadid Rubin, an artist who both came from a kibbutz and was a kind of “agent of the center,”[9] presented a sculptural installation called ‘My Field’ which included 12,000 scaled-down iron trees  “that vary according to mood and light.”[10]

David Frumer, from Kibbutz Ramat Hakovesh, was introduced by Barzel as someone whose work connects the local-Israeli and the international scene: “These colorful video landscapes by Frumer are a kind of equivalent to the graffiti language that now dominates part of the ‘new painting’ movement. Both serve as witnesses to the immediate urban culture, though one grows out of the margins of society, while the other grows out of computerized technology labs.”[11]

Other works in Tel Hai 83 referenced the “Operation Peace for Galilee” which broke out in the summer of 1982 and was the declared reason for postponing the second edition of the Tel Hai event. The artist Dov Or-Ner, who according to the press release displayed “items from his private war museum,” created a life-sized Kfir plane and an object simulating the atom bomb [that was] dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki during the Second World War from bundled olive tree branches. The work of Joshua Neustein, ‘Still Life’ (1983) likewise addressed the war through the image of the fighter jet that was burned into the ground like a black, threatening shadow on the one hand, and as a mark of a missile hitting the ground on the other.

A review of the catalog also reveals engagement with the myth of Tel Hai itself, again primarily by non-local artists; Zadok Ben David came especially from Britain, where he lives, and built a cypress tree as a symbol of the tree-lined boulevards which were planted in 1918 between Kfar Giladi and Tel Hai. The work ‘Painting Standing Freelyin the Landscape’ (1983) by Jerusalemite Evan Schwebel  placed a large painting in the Tel Hai landscape depicting Trumpeldor with one arm buried at the top of the hill. The catalog text accompanying the work described the creation process as full of deliberation, in which each detail of the painting constructs the mythology in accordance with a different political identity. For example, Schwebel decided to erase the‘Roaring Lion’ as he claimed that it hid Trumpeldor’s humanism, reasoning: “The war itself is degenerate, and the whole phenomenon that accompanies it is degenerate.” Further reference to the lion appeared in the work of the Tel Avivian Siona Shimshiwho created seven rugs made of acrylic fibers and placed them on the side of the mountain: “Human history is filled with symbolic lions … symbols of heroism. Heroism is always the result of a lack of choice.” The images included Hatzor Lion, the wounded lion from the Ashurbanipal Palace, Etruskian Lion , an ancient image of a lion from the 11th century in India and the logo for MAN (the German bus company). This was to challenge the cultural hierarchy by placing the commercial symbol of the bus company alongside ancient symbols of worship and that of the national myth associated with Tel Hai. This also subtly served the agenda of the entire event: to undermine the cultural hierarchy that defines the cultural center and its margins.    

Haim Maor, in his work ‘Communication from Auschwitz-Birkenau to Tel Hai’ (1983), also connected between two symbols in the national consciousness from within a formalist imagination: the entrance to the Nazi extermination camp at the Auschwitzim village in Poland and the historical Tel Hai courtyard. Formally speaking, Maor noticed a resemblance between the two architectural structures and then sought to examine the connection between the military watchtower and the shelter designed to protect the new Jew; to examine in what way they mirror one another. Inside the Arts Institute shelter, Maor built an interactive installation in which the viewers walked a circular route which simulated the last part of the walk leading to the gas chambers, with each of the existing architectural features in the shelter, from the ladders leading to the escape hatches, through to the heavy duty locking doors to the emergency shower heads in the center of the space, forming an accurate backdrop which faithfully served the comparison Maor was making. The piece actually brought up some of the most sensitive issues among the Israeli public: Holocaust victims representing an exiled, weak Jew, led like sheep to the slaughter, as opposed to the heroic sabra who built the country with both hands and died for it in courageous battle. Maor wanted to reconsider the term ‘heroism’: “My father was in Auschwitz for two years, which in my opinion is more heroic than fighting and falling in battle. It’s a kind of ongoing heroism.”[12]

Haim Maor’s desire to connect the heroism of IDF soldiers and the slain of Israel’s military campaigns and the heroism of Holocaust survivors and those who perished in the death camps was part of a public debate that was beginning to gain steam. This discussion concerned the perception of heroism in the Israeli narrative, which reveres death (such as the fallen in the battle of Trumpeldor) as opposed to life, and how that accounts for those whose heroism was in surviving the Holocaust or in their opposition to the “Operation Peace for Galilee” and its consequences.

The term “year of heroism” accompanied other works by artists of the time, that likewise identified a need to cast doubt on the term ‘heroism,’ while the state was still licking its wounds from the Operation Peace for the Galilee and division over its very existence, scope and consequences.[13] In the catalog text accompanying the work of Siona Shimshi, she directly referenced the term as a burden on the consciousness which must be done away with: “Thank God that the year of heroism has come to its end.”

In that sense, the Tel Hai events joined the trend of criticism present among the artistic echelons in relation to the First Lebanon War. This included such attempts as the ‘Peace Castle’ in Kibbutz Gaash, an exhibition that year against the ongoing war in Lebanon which also involved Amnon Barzel, Haim Maor as a joint member of the kibbutz and other kibbutz artists who took part in the Tel Hai meetings such as Dov Heller and Yaakov Hefetz.[14] Furthermore, attention must be paid to the “triumph of the spirit” theme that began to show up in the second Tel Hai event. This triumph was on the mind of Amnon Barzel when he called the Tel Hai events: “The only exhibition blossoming on a militarized border” in an invitation to the collector Giuliano Guri, the owner of Villa Celle.[15]

It is also worth noting the increasing presence of performances and shows as subversive practices against the existing power structures, as these media led to additional forms including the fields of music, dance and performance.

The series of performances took place as a separate sequence every day between 10 AM to 10 PM and included Ami Berkman, Steve Hornstein, Adina Braun with the work ‘Salute’ (1983), the Tamar ensemble, the Kibbutz Dance Ensemble and Yossi Mar Haim.

           
 

Reception of Tel Hai 83 Event

Putting on the Tel Hai Contemporary Art meeting a second time established it in the media consciousness: “The art happening in Tel Hai transformed from an experiment into an existing fact.”[16] As for the effect of the sculptures in the landscape, public sentiment expressed that: “A serious site of contemporary art, which would meet any international criteria, has been established at Tel Hai.”[17]

Amnon Barzel’s efforts bore fruit and the second Tel Hai event was linked in the press with documenta: “The unquestionable success of the second Tel Hai meeting provides a solid basis for assuming that a permanent event of central importance — albeit on a modest scale, but as close as locally possible to being a sort of local documenta — has arrived to the vicinity of our northern border.”[18] Not only that, but the reviews — even the negative ones — compared Tel Hai as a platform with Israel’s most significant platforms. “There’s no point in establishing that kind of salon in Tel Hai of all places, it’s place is in Tel Aviv,” wrote Rafi Lavi in “Ha’Ir” newspaper. Such opinions indicate Amnon Barzel’s political success in getting critics to compare Tel Hai’s place in the discourse to Tel Aviv. Lavi was not the only one to compare Tel Hai as a platform to an art center. In his review, Ilan Nachshon also suggested to Martin Weil, then director of the Israel Museum, to learn from the “thundering bulldozers that moved huge stones in Tel Hai.”[19] Weil himself was quoted several months later, recognizing the significance of the event: “The event is unique, not only on an Israeli scale, but on aninternational scale.”[20]

Arts Institute staff were also able to realize their dream of making the institute, and the Galilee, a place in which unique art is made: “Anyone who wanted to renew the connection between art and place, found an inflation of artists from kibbutzim whose works could not have come to be anywhere else.”[21] Once again the event recorded a great number of spectators, with attendance of over 50,000 visitors.[22]

The responses from representatives of the geographic-cultural center regarding the Tel Hai events’ challenge to their place in the field were not long in coming. “Tel Hai organizers have not yet decided what it is: a summer camp for artists, a museum within the landscape, a team-building workshop or an art project for the people,” Raffi Lavie reviewed in his characteristically tongue in cheek style. “Most of the successful works displayed in the big tent are movable … there’s no need to come from the far ends of the country to see them. They can be brought anywhere, for instance to the Helena Rubenstein.”[23] It would seem that Lavie is complaining about the lack of connection between the platform and the place in which it emerged. Another unfavorable critique of the event claimed: “The works exhibited in the huge, inflatable tent, which was erected especially, looked like a fairly casual selection from Tel Aviv’s last exhibition season.”[24]

Indeed artists such as Tzibi Geva and Dorit Feldman, whose work was included in the aforementioned inflatable tent, did exhibit in prominent Israeli galleries beforehand. In this respect, we recall Amnon Barzel’s strategy — to position the entire platform as central by integrating established artists in the local-Israeli field as well as internationally established artists, to the possible extent.   Tel Hai wanted to establish a new model of an art event taking place almost entirely without walls. The pieces were assimilated into the landscape, so viewing the work required entering the landscape, where the art was placed and in some cases, into the actual piece itself.[25]

According to the curatorial text, Dorit Feldman’s work referred to these elements from within the inflatable tent: “A sequence of landscape photographs were brought into the inner space to join the stone sculptures which were collected in these landscapes, in order to be a landscape within an inner landscape.”[26]

 

The following article was taken from a chapter of the thesis ‘A Center Everywhere: Art platforms in Israel’s geographic margins in the 1980s as a tool for creating cultural and symbolic wealth’ (title translated from Hebrew), towards a master’s degree as part of the program “Policy and Theory of the Arts” at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, supervised by Professor Yael Guilat and Dr. Tal Ben Zvi.

 

 

[1] Barzel, Amnon. ‘Tel Hai 83: Contemporary Art Encounter (Naftali Mountains, Tel Hai Institute of Art, 1983). [In Hebrew]

[2] Ibid.

[3]Amnon Barzel, personal interview from 29.7.2019.

[4] In the end, only Stacholi attended the Tel Hai meeting.

[5]See the work by Richard Serra in Tel Hai 83 Catalogue: Contemporary Art Meeting (Naftali Mountains, Tel Hai Institute of Art, 1983). [In Hebrew]

[6]  Giorgio Verzotti,  “Mauro Staccioli A Arte Invernizzi,” Artforum, October 1995, https://www.artforum.com/print/reviews/199508/mauro-staccioli-56427

[7]Ben Horin, Yitzhak, “Three terrorists who tried to infiltrate Hanita were killed, tried to pass as Israelis and take hostages,” Maariv, 15.5.1998. http://www.jpress.nli.org.il/Olive/APA/NLI_heb/SharedView.Article.aspx?href=MAR%2F1980%2F05%2F15&id=Ar00100&sk=A5010F71. [In Hebrew]

[8] Ibid.

[9]In 1981, Yedid Robin had a solo exhibition at the highly-regarded Julie M. Gallery, something largely reserved for young artists approved by Rafi Lavi. The exhibition received rave reviews. See Rachel Angel, "Dialogue with the Environment", Maariv, 9.1.1981. [In Hebrew]

[10]From the booklet distributed to Tel Hai 83 visitors. Haim Meor Archive. [In Hebrew]

[11]  Tel Hai 83 catalog.

[12] Personal interview with Haim Maor, January 4, 2020.

[13]See, for example, David Tartakover’s work, “Heroes of Israel.” At the bottom of the photo is the caption "The year of heroism.” [In Hebrew]

[14]Danieli, Yuval, “CommonKibbutz,” from the website of Israel’s Avoda movement, 5.6.2002, printed on 9.1.2011, Beit Ziffer Archive, Yuval Danieli file. [In Hebrew]

[15] 30.7.1983, Amnon Barzel to Giuliano Gori, Amnon Barzel Archive.

[16] Ben-Jeno, Gabi, “Galilee Landscape and Art,” Rehov Rashi, 2.9.1983, 20. [In Hebrew]

[17] Ibid.

[18]Maliniak, Nitza. “Tel Hai 83,” Haaretz, 16.9.1983, Beit Ziffer Archive, Tel Hai file. [In Hebrew]

[19]Nahshon, Ilan, “From Trumpeldor to Tel Hai 83”, Yedioth Aharonot, 16.9.1983, 23. [In Hebrew]

[20]Semel, Nava, “Thanks to Tel Hai 83,” Rehov Rashi, 14.10.1983. [In Hebrew]

[21]Nahshon, Ilan, “From Trumpeldor to Tel Hai 83”, Yedioth Aharonot. [In Hebrew]

[22]Meor, Haim, “Urgent and not urgent at Tel Hai 83,” “Hotem” Al Hamishmar Weekly, No. 36, 7.9.1983, 17-18, Library Reference Room at Hashomer Hatzair Archive - Yad Yaari. [In Hebrew]

[23]Lavie, Rafi, “The Gymboree of Contemporary Art,” HaIr, Nodate, 14, Haim Meor Archive. [In Hebrew]

[24]Rappaport, Tali, “From Basalt to Video,” Davar, 16.9.1983, Haim Meor Archive. [In Hebrew]

[25]Bishop, Claire, Installation Art: A Critical History (London: Tate publishing, 2005), 6.

[26]  Tel Hai 83 catalog.

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Tel-Hai Art events 1983
Public Art and Early Media Archive

Tel Hai 83 Event: Israeli Documenta

Tali Kayam

 

The Tel Hai 83: Contemporary Art Meeting was held between August 31st and September 3rd, 1983. This time, the Upper Galilee Regional Council, which already represented 30 kibbutzim, was joined by a number of donors from the public and private sectors to learn from the success of the first Tel Hai event: Discount Group, the art department from the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Culture and Education division of the national trade union and the cultural fund “America Israel” and other, private organizations.

This time, Amnon Barzel’s agenda of positioning Tel Hai as a central stage was clearly stated in the catalog: “The power of the Tel Hai meetings speaks to the transparency of the myth of artistic centralization and the possibility of establishing another, additional artistic center in the geographic periphery.”[1]

“The fact that the meeting is the result of the initiative, organization and execution of the artists from Tel Hai College presents an alternative to the current artistic institutional system, just as the content of the meeting establishes an alternative to the museum as a socio-cultural concept, without negating its function in the situation in which it operates,” he added, noting that some of the works this time were “installations in interior spaces.”[2]

This time, the connection with the earth was seen through a socio-geographic prism. The idea of bringing the exhibition closer to the environment in which it is displayed, which had become increasingly resonant overseas, continued in this edition of the Tel Hai events, and Barzel invited artists he had met at documenta 6, those whom he eventually invited to exhibit in the sculpture garden which he established at the Villa Celle in the Pistoia province of Italy. Indeed the establishment of that sculpture garden, curated by Barzel, was one of the unofficial reasons for holding the event in 1983 and not 1982 as initially planned.[3] This was also how we came to find Richard Serra and Mauro Staccioli among the list of exhibitors’ names, whose works were put up at different stages in the same sculpture garden.[4] It is interesting how these artists’ pieces served the agenda of establishing Tel Hai as a new center, from their perceptions of the environment and material, through to the outspoken criticism regarding the practices of mapping and marking boundaries: “The relationship between the context and the content is similar to the paradox of the chicken and the egg. In order to be effective, my work must break away from existing content in the field. One method of adding to the existing context, and thereby changing the content, is the analysis and merging of unique environmental components into boundaries, edges, structures and paths. Streets are characteristic lines through the site. The land is redefined, not represented anew.”[5] Staccioli’s work, including the piece ‘Untitled’ (1983), which was exhibited at the Tel Hai Meeting, was seen as “Sculptural Intervention,” relying on historical research of the characteristics of the place where he works and exhibits, and the sculptures serving as a means of marking and mapping.[6]

The mapping, marking, and stretching of borders was also investigated by the Israeli artists who participated in this edition of the event. In her work ‘Fence Labyrinth ’ (1983), Hanina Neufeld chose to create a sculptural installation using wicker fences arranged into a spiral shape. In the political context, a connection can be made between the piece and the border fence which has delineated the lives of the kibbutzim and residents of the Galilee since the end of the 1960s and its process of change in parallel with the development of the Tel Hai events.[7] Noam Rabinovitch, of Kibbutz Dafna, who lived in Beit Hashita at that time, also erected fences but in reference to existing cattle fences within the kibbutz.

The works of the participating kibbutz artists seemed to seek to present local myths as universal, of the kind that represent ancient cultures, and return to our roots in the land. For instance, David Fine, one of the teachers at the Arts Institute, created an arch from basalt stones, not connected by any material. The catalog text again suggests a metaphor for the situation of kibbutz society and perhaps of Israeli society in general: “The basalt rocks in the arch hold one another up without any external connection or reinforcement, they guarantee one another and if one piece slips it will make the entire structure collapse.”[8]

Yadid Rubin, an artist who both came from a kibbutz and was a kind of “agent of the center,”[9] presented a sculptural installation called ‘My Field’ which included 12,000 scaled-down iron trees  “that vary according to mood and light.”[10]

David Frumer, from Kibbutz Ramat Hakovesh, was introduced by Barzel as someone whose work connects the local-Israeli and the international scene: “These colorful video landscapes by Frumer are a kind of equivalent to the graffiti language that now dominates part of the ‘new painting’ movement. Both serve as witnesses to the immediate urban culture, though one grows out of the margins of society, while the other grows out of computerized technology labs.”[11]

Other works in Tel Hai 83 referenced the “Operation Peace for Galilee” which broke out in the summer of 1982 and was the declared reason for postponing the second edition of the Tel Hai event. The artist Dov Or-Ner, who according to the press release displayed “items from his private war museum,” created a life-sized Kfir plane and an object simulating the atom bomb [that was] dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki during the Second World War from bundled olive tree branches. The work of Joshua Neustein, ‘Still Life’ (1983) likewise addressed the war through the image of the fighter jet that was burned into the ground like a black, threatening shadow on the one hand, and as a mark of a missile hitting the ground on the other.

A review of the catalog also reveals engagement with the myth of Tel Hai itself, again primarily by non-local artists; Zadok Ben David came especially from Britain, where he lives, and built a cypress tree as a symbol of the tree-lined boulevards which were planted in 1918 between Kfar Giladi and Tel Hai. The work ‘Painting Standing Freelyin the Landscape’ (1983) by Jerusalemite Evan Schwebel  placed a large painting in the Tel Hai landscape depicting Trumpeldor with one arm buried at the top of the hill. The catalog text accompanying the work described the creation process as full of deliberation, in which each detail of the painting constructs the mythology in accordance with a different political identity. For example, Schwebel decided to erase the‘Roaring Lion’ as he claimed that it hid Trumpeldor’s humanism, reasoning: “The war itself is degenerate, and the whole phenomenon that accompanies it is degenerate.” Further reference to the lion appeared in the work of the Tel Avivian Siona Shimshiwho created seven rugs made of acrylic fibers and placed them on the side of the mountain: “Human history is filled with symbolic lions … symbols of heroism. Heroism is always the result of a lack of choice.” The images included Hatzor Lion, the wounded lion from the Ashurbanipal Palace, Etruskian Lion , an ancient image of a lion from the 11th century in India and the logo for MAN (the German bus company). This was to challenge the cultural hierarchy by placing the commercial symbol of the bus company alongside ancient symbols of worship and that of the national myth associated with Tel Hai. This also subtly served the agenda of the entire event: to undermine the cultural hierarchy that defines the cultural center and its margins.    

Haim Maor, in his work ‘Communication from Auschwitz-Birkenau to Tel Hai’ (1983), also connected between two symbols in the national consciousness from within a formalist imagination: the entrance to the Nazi extermination camp at the Auschwitzim village in Poland and the historical Tel Hai courtyard. Formally speaking, Maor noticed a resemblance between the two architectural structures and then sought to examine the connection between the military watchtower and the shelter designed to protect the new Jew; to examine in what way they mirror one another. Inside the Arts Institute shelter, Maor built an interactive installation in which the viewers walked a circular route which simulated the last part of the walk leading to the gas chambers, with each of the existing architectural features in the shelter, from the ladders leading to the escape hatches, through to the heavy duty locking doors to the emergency shower heads in the center of the space, forming an accurate backdrop which faithfully served the comparison Maor was making. The piece actually brought up some of the most sensitive issues among the Israeli public: Holocaust victims representing an exiled, weak Jew, led like sheep to the slaughter, as opposed to the heroic sabra who built the country with both hands and died for it in courageous battle. Maor wanted to reconsider the term ‘heroism’: “My father was in Auschwitz for two years, which in my opinion is more heroic than fighting and falling in battle. It’s a kind of ongoing heroism.”[12]

Haim Maor’s desire to connect the heroism of IDF soldiers and the slain of Israel’s military campaigns and the heroism of Holocaust survivors and those who perished in the death camps was part of a public debate that was beginning to gain steam. This discussion concerned the perception of heroism in the Israeli narrative, which reveres death (such as the fallen in the battle of Trumpeldor) as opposed to life, and how that accounts for those whose heroism was in surviving the Holocaust or in their opposition to the “Operation Peace for Galilee” and its consequences.

The term “year of heroism” accompanied other works by artists of the time, that likewise identified a need to cast doubt on the term ‘heroism,’ while the state was still licking its wounds from the Operation Peace for the Galilee and division over its very existence, scope and consequences.[13] In the catalog text accompanying the work of Siona Shimshi, she directly referenced the term as a burden on the consciousness which must be done away with: “Thank God that the year of heroism has come to its end.”

In that sense, the Tel Hai events joined the trend of criticism present among the artistic echelons in relation to the First Lebanon War. This included such attempts as the ‘Peace Castle’ in Kibbutz Gaash, an exhibition that year against the ongoing war in Lebanon which also involved Amnon Barzel, Haim Maor as a joint member of the kibbutz and other kibbutz artists who took part in the Tel Hai meetings such as Dov Heller and Yaakov Hefetz.[14] Furthermore, attention must be paid to the “triumph of the spirit” theme that began to show up in the second Tel Hai event. This triumph was on the mind of Amnon Barzel when he called the Tel Hai events: “The only exhibition blossoming on a militarized border” in an invitation to the collector Giuliano Guri, the owner of Villa Celle.[15]

It is also worth noting the increasing presence of performances and shows as subversive practices against the existing power structures, as these media led to additional forms including the fields of music, dance and performance.

The series of performances took place as a separate sequence every day between 10 AM to 10 PM and included Ami Berkman, Steve Hornstein, Adina Braun with the work ‘Salute’ (1983), the Tamar ensemble, the Kibbutz Dance Ensemble and Yossi Mar Haim.

           
 

Reception of Tel Hai 83 Event

Putting on the Tel Hai Contemporary Art meeting a second time established it in the media consciousness: “The art happening in Tel Hai transformed from an experiment into an existing fact.”[16] As for the effect of the sculptures in the landscape, public sentiment expressed that: “A serious site of contemporary art, which would meet any international criteria, has been established at Tel Hai.”[17]

Amnon Barzel’s efforts bore fruit and the second Tel Hai event was linked in the press with documenta: “The unquestionable success of the second Tel Hai meeting provides a solid basis for assuming that a permanent event of central importance — albeit on a modest scale, but as close as locally possible to being a sort of local documenta — has arrived to the vicinity of our northern border.”[18] Not only that, but the reviews — even the negative ones — compared Tel Hai as a platform with Israel’s most significant platforms. “There’s no point in establishing that kind of salon in Tel Hai of all places, it’s place is in Tel Aviv,” wrote Rafi Lavi in “Ha’Ir” newspaper. Such opinions indicate Amnon Barzel’s political success in getting critics to compare Tel Hai’s place in the discourse to Tel Aviv. Lavi was not the only one to compare Tel Hai as a platform to an art center. In his review, Ilan Nachshon also suggested to Martin Weil, then director of the Israel Museum, to learn from the “thundering bulldozers that moved huge stones in Tel Hai.”[19] Weil himself was quoted several months later, recognizing the significance of the event: “The event is unique, not only on an Israeli scale, but on aninternational scale.”[20]

Arts Institute staff were also able to realize their dream of making the institute, and the Galilee, a place in which unique art is made: “Anyone who wanted to renew the connection between art and place, found an inflation of artists from kibbutzim whose works could not have come to be anywhere else.”[21] Once again the event recorded a great number of spectators, with attendance of over 50,000 visitors.[22]

The responses from representatives of the geographic-cultural center regarding the Tel Hai events’ challenge to their place in the field were not long in coming. “Tel Hai organizers have not yet decided what it is: a summer camp for artists, a museum within the landscape, a team-building workshop or an art project for the people,” Raffi Lavie reviewed in his characteristically tongue in cheek style. “Most of the successful works displayed in the big tent are movable … there’s no need to come from the far ends of the country to see them. They can be brought anywhere, for instance to the Helena Rubenstein.”[23] It would seem that Lavie is complaining about the lack of connection between the platform and the place in which it emerged. Another unfavorable critique of the event claimed: “The works exhibited in the huge, inflatable tent, which was erected especially, looked like a fairly casual selection from Tel Aviv’s last exhibition season.”[24]

Indeed artists such as Tzibi Geva and Dorit Feldman, whose work was included in the aforementioned inflatable tent, did exhibit in prominent Israeli galleries beforehand. In this respect, we recall Amnon Barzel’s strategy — to position the entire platform as central by integrating established artists in the local-Israeli field as well as internationally established artists, to the possible extent.   Tel Hai wanted to establish a new model of an art event taking place almost entirely without walls. The pieces were assimilated into the landscape, so viewing the work required entering the landscape, where the art was placed and in some cases, into the actual piece itself.[25]

According to the curatorial text, Dorit Feldman’s work referred to these elements from within the inflatable tent: “A sequence of landscape photographs were brought into the inner space to join the stone sculptures which were collected in these landscapes, in order to be a landscape within an inner landscape.”[26]

 

The following article was taken from a chapter of the thesis ‘A Center Everywhere: Art platforms in Israel’s geographic margins in the 1980s as a tool for creating cultural and symbolic wealth’ (title translated from Hebrew), towards a master’s degree as part of the program “Policy and Theory of the Arts” at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, supervised by Professor Yael Guilat and Dr. Tal Ben Zvi.

 

 

[1] Barzel, Amnon. ‘Tel Hai 83: Contemporary Art Encounter (Naftali Mountains, Tel Hai Institute of Art, 1983). [In Hebrew]

[2] Ibid.

[3]Amnon Barzel, personal interview from 29.7.2019.

[4] In the end, only Stacholi attended the Tel Hai meeting.

[5]See the work by Richard Serra in Tel Hai 83 Catalogue: Contemporary Art Meeting (Naftali Mountains, Tel Hai Institute of Art, 1983). [In Hebrew]

[6]  Giorgio Verzotti,  “Mauro Staccioli A Arte Invernizzi,” Artforum, October 1995, https://www.artforum.com/print/reviews/199508/mauro-staccioli-56427

[7]Ben Horin, Yitzhak, “Three terrorists who tried to infiltrate Hanita were killed, tried to pass as Israelis and take hostages,” Maariv, 15.5.1998. http://www.jpress.nli.org.il/Olive/APA/NLI_heb/SharedView.Article.aspx?href=MAR%2F1980%2F05%2F15&id=Ar00100&sk=A5010F71. [In Hebrew]

[8] Ibid.

[9]In 1981, Yedid Robin had a solo exhibition at the highly-regarded Julie M. Gallery, something largely reserved for young artists approved by Rafi Lavi. The exhibition received rave reviews. See Rachel Angel, "Dialogue with the Environment", Maariv, 9.1.1981. [In Hebrew]

[10]From the booklet distributed to Tel Hai 83 visitors. Haim Meor Archive. [In Hebrew]

[11]  Tel Hai 83 catalog.

[12] Personal interview with Haim Maor, January 4, 2020.

[13]See, for example, David Tartakover’s work, “Heroes of Israel.” At the bottom of the photo is the caption "The year of heroism.” [In Hebrew]

[14]Danieli, Yuval, “CommonKibbutz,” from the website of Israel’s Avoda movement, 5.6.2002, printed on 9.1.2011, Beit Ziffer Archive, Yuval Danieli file. [In Hebrew]

[15] 30.7.1983, Amnon Barzel to Giuliano Gori, Amnon Barzel Archive.

[16] Ben-Jeno, Gabi, “Galilee Landscape and Art,” Rehov Rashi, 2.9.1983, 20. [In Hebrew]

[17] Ibid.

[18]Maliniak, Nitza. “Tel Hai 83,” Haaretz, 16.9.1983, Beit Ziffer Archive, Tel Hai file. [In Hebrew]

[19]Nahshon, Ilan, “From Trumpeldor to Tel Hai 83”, Yedioth Aharonot, 16.9.1983, 23. [In Hebrew]

[20]Semel, Nava, “Thanks to Tel Hai 83,” Rehov Rashi, 14.10.1983. [In Hebrew]

[21]Nahshon, Ilan, “From Trumpeldor to Tel Hai 83”, Yedioth Aharonot. [In Hebrew]

[22]Meor, Haim, “Urgent and not urgent at Tel Hai 83,” “Hotem” Al Hamishmar Weekly, No. 36, 7.9.1983, 17-18, Library Reference Room at Hashomer Hatzair Archive - Yad Yaari. [In Hebrew]

[23]Lavie, Rafi, “The Gymboree of Contemporary Art,” HaIr, Nodate, 14, Haim Meor Archive. [In Hebrew]

[24]Rappaport, Tali, “From Basalt to Video,” Davar, 16.9.1983, Haim Meor Archive. [In Hebrew]

[25]Bishop, Claire, Installation Art: A Critical History (London: Tate publishing, 2005), 6.

[26]  Tel Hai 83 catalog.

 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