Saturday, April 2, 2016

Eyes Wide Open: Let the Walls Speak

Visions of Israel Blog: Minneapolis Jewish Artists' Lab Israel Trip

During the Artists' Lab trip to Israel we are inviting our participants to write a blog entry.  We hope to capture the trip through many eyes.  

March 21, 2016 Blog and photos by Leslie Levine Adler

By dinnertime, everyone had taken their seat at the Hotel Ruth Daniel dining room for our first meal together, some straight from the airport and the rapid pace was set. The artists were delighted to be united with Anat, our one-time facilitator, after over a year’s absence.

Our first adventure was a nighttime walk on “the other side of the tracks” in the Florentine neighborhood of Jaffa, settled by Greek immigrants, many from Salonika who were recruited to build the new port north of Jaffa that would become the new port of Tel Aviv. The neighborhood is industrial, and a bit bohemian. With flashlights, we followed our guide Yigal and several cats through the narrow alleys to view the graffiti. Why at nighttime? The workshops pull their shutters down, and these become the canvas for the street artists. Yigal referred to it as “letting the walls speak.”

We learned that the graffiti movement gained momentum here after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Graffiti now deals with political, social, and religious themes. Even some Orthodox artists are involved expressing ideas in painting that might be forbidden to talk about directly in their community. The number, variety and quality of the graffiti were stunning to us. In a memorable one, two ibexes lock horns in a battle, which Bernie Sanders would understand, between capitalist efforts to seize property and build and those who struggle to keep their homes.

These graffiti artists often pride themselves on remaining anonymous and representing a voice to counter the power of the marketing. “The street and the walls are their platform, said Yigal. Much of the work exudes talent, spirit and hutzpah. Paint is very expensive and the best graffiti artists plan their efforts in advance and do their work quickly to avoid getting caught. It is subversive but tolerated in this neighborhood and, perhaps, now even a source of pride and identity.

We came home through the American colony settled by Christians from Maine who brought over a 150 year old wooden house. This was another reminder of the diversity of Tel Aviv/Jaffa.

Editor's Note:  In 2013 Adam Heffez visited the lab to talk about his book on graffiti art in Israel.  You can find the blog written on this lab and links to the art he referenced at Anonymous Words.

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