Foto Friday – Jerusalem to the IMAX

Sometimes, someone sends you an email containing a video link. In fact, this happens quite often, at least ten times a day. And sometimes, in fact very often, you hit the “Delete” button without even clicking on the link. Occasionally, however, you immediately regret the decision and hit “Undo”. Especially if you’re looking for something to distract your troubled mind from the day’s bad news.

Which is how I came to watch, nay, to be transfixed, by the preview for the film JERUSALEM, an aerial tour of the Holy Land and the Holy City filmed in IMAX 3D. Scheduled for worldwide release in 2013, the clip was posted by the production company, Arcane/Cosmic Pictures, and it is well worth not only taking 7 minutes out of your busy schedule to view it, but even watching it in “Full Screen” mode.

Jerusalem | Filmed in Imax 3D from JerusalemGiantScreen on Vimeo.

The production newsletter yields some good information about the process — and the difficulties — in creating such amazing imagery. Writer and co-producer Daniel Ferguson states, “Very few films ever get permission to fly over Jerusalem. This is the first time in nearly 20 years an aerial camera has been allowed this close to the holy sites and certainly the first 65mm aerials ever filmed of Jerusalem.”

The production worked with aerial photography company Albatross, whose founders, two former Israeli Air Force helicopter pilots, Duby Tal and Moni Haramati, are veterans in the field. Co-producer George Duffield noted that, “The crew was a complete mix of people. They came from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Bethlehem and Ramallah (both in the West Bank), and Amman, Jordan. They were Jews and Arabs, Muslims, Christians… an incredible cross-section. We also benefited from the expertise of consultants all around the world, including Canada, the US, the UK and Australia.”

According to Taran Davies, one of the film’s producers. “We want audiences to experience the city from multiple perspectives to better understand its historical, archeological, cultural and spiritual importance.”

Can’t wait to see how the rest of the country looks like in through their lens.

Go out and Gaga

August 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Art, education, General, Israeliness, Life, Pop Culture 

Gaga, it seems, is Israeli. Not Lady Gaga, but Gaga, the movement language developed by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin. Thanks to the International Herald Tribune, I now know that Gaga is considered “a serious new way of training the body”, as developed by Naharin, the artistic director of The Batsheva Dance Company, here in Tel Aviv.

He developed the set of movements for himself when he was recovering from a back injury, and then shared it with the company’s non-dance staff. Now Gaga is huge in Israel, and it made its way to the U.S. where Gaga USA is spreading the word in New York City, and, eventually, the rest of the States. The secret to its success? It appears to force one to let go of the mind when moving, even when those movements seem silly.

It’s funky way to exercise, and you can check it out here, in an Israel21c produced video:

Nostalgia Sunday – Museum memories

For months now, we — my significant other and myself — have been promising ourselves to get over to the renewed Israel Museum. After all, here we are, two art school graduates living not a 20 minute walk from the place. It’s a crime and a shame. Which is why, when planning a short “staycation” (new-speak for vacation at home), a visit to the Israel Museum was tops on the list of things to do and places to go. And so we did and so we went.

Of course, we drove, which is not how I used to get the museum when I was 12 and my parents enrolled me in a painting course. Once a week after school, my little orange student pass in hand, I would trudge across the Valley of the Cross and up the hill to the museum. (This architects’ rendering should give something of an idea). And then slog, up and up and up the long flight of stairs inspired, so they said, by the stairs that once led worshipers up to the Temple grounds at a respectful pace.

Once inside, I would go upstairs to the studio area where a group of us were instructed in 19th and 20th century painting by our teacher, Juki. Juki was really cool; she had long dark hair and eyes that I remember as being a deep, deep blue. Each week, Juki would show us a style of painting — Impressionism, Cubism, Surrealism — and we would try our hands at the different styles. My final project, inspired wholly by Salvador Dali, was of a chessboard with a giant eye in the background, two chess pieces in the foreground, one standing, one toppled over, etc. etc. etc. It was terrible but I was totally enthralled with it.

I was less aware, at the time, as to who Juki was as an artist and the sort of work she was doing. During those months, as we kids painted diligently, Juki was working away with a thick needle and thread on some black and white photos. Someone asked her about it and she said something about having spent time in a hospital, seeing people with stitches.

Years later, when I was already in college, I went up to the museum and saw this work, part of a series by the artist Yocheved Weinfeld. Also known as Juki.

It was around that time that I also arranged a 3-month internship for myself at the museum. There weren’t internship programs in Israel at that time; I just went to the museum, asked if I could work there for free a couple of days a week, and assured them that I would get college credit for my labor if they just wrote me a letter at the end of my time there. (This ended up being true, by the way — thanks, Massachusetts College of Art!).

The first day, I was given a feather duster and given the task of going through storehouse “D”. Now, the museum had some amazing treasures neatly housed in storehouses A, B and C. But this was a dark and dusty closet-like space that was called “D”, they said only half-jokingly, for “drek”. Which, in case you don’t know, means “crap” in Yiddish.

Nonetheless, I had a great time in “D” with my feather duster, trying to uncover items that had gone amiss within the museum’s filing system, a box of black and white Polaroids stapled onto cards scrawled with some pertinent data. Most of the paintings were rolled up canvas portraits of little value. My biggest find was a small framed painting by the surrealist Leonora Carrington. I believe it’s this one:

After my time in “D”, I was transferred over to the team working on the James Turrell installation. Turrell creates optical illusions using space and low light reflected off different types of surfaces. To create a sense of infinity, he needed to have absolutely flat surfaces — apparently not a problem in other countries. Here in Israel, Turrell was flummoxed by the fact that not one wall in the entire gallery space met this requirement. He spent several nights working with plaster, clay, a makeshift tool made of a piece of plywood and fine sandpaper, just trying to get the walls right. You can learn a lot from a person like that.

I’m pleased to say that the renewed museum has very flat walls and has also eliminated a good deal of the long haul up the stairs. These are truly welcome changes. It was also fun to visit some old favorites. Needless to say, my most beloved gallery is still Surrealism and Dadaism. To paraphrase an old saying, you can take the girl out of art school but you can’t take art school out of the girl.

Foto Friday – Tent city re-evolution with Elyssa Frank

Photographer Elyssa Frank has a unique way of seeing Israel…

Unique, perhaps, because she says that she wants the world to see the side of Israel that the international media does not usually portray. “The beauty, the smiles on the faces of children, kids dancing en masse, the gorgeous landscapes, and the wonderful ceremonies, like a new Sefer Torah being marched throughout the streets of Tel Aviv city. The world needed to see the signs of the living, not the fighting and the chaos; the strength and courage of a nation to re-build and to be built.”

Her latest portfolio, TLV tent city revolution, documents the current protest for social justice as she tries, she says, “to understand the mass and power of the people!”

As always, Frank has her own perspective on things. “I’m trying to show the ‘life’ side. . the beauty of the country through this all. And just strolling the streets and trying to be at EVERY protest… no matter what time!”

“For me, its the peacefulness… its the smiles on policemen’s faces… Only in Israel!”

As someone who loves Tel Aviv, Frank also knows that no protest rally would be complete without a late-night dip in the sea.

Frank has a new website for a work in progress, MADEiniSRAEL, where she uploads a new photo each week. The MADEiniSRAEL collection — an 11-year labor of love — is intended for eventual publication as a book “showing the side of Israel the media does not portray.” You can learn more about the origins of the project by reading her bio and you can support it by “liking” her Facebook page where there are lots more photos — lots to like!

From the tents to the Israeli street

Estimates of the crowds on Saturday night at the social protest marches that took place in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem – and to a lesser degree in other spots in the country – topped 300,000.

That’s a pretty astonishing number – more than gathered for any anti-war or pro-Gilad Schalit release rally in the country’s history. It’s almost five percent of the country!

In comparison, can you imagine if five percent of the population of the US or China came out for a grassroots rally? There would be something like 15 million people converging in Washington DC or many millions of Chinese people marching in Beijing – sorry, my math skills are not so great.

And we’re not talking about five % of the ‘Jewish population’ of the country, as most public opinion polls state – this protest movement seems to encompass the Arab sector, and despite attempts to label it as a political movement aimed to bring down the Netanyahu government, cuts across the political Left-Right spectrum and the religious-secular schism.

Across the board, the middle class in Israel is fed up at not being able to make ends meet and pay for adequate housing despite holding down decent jobs. The naysayers (myself included) who thought that the tent protests would fizzle out after a few days of hot summer weather and/or some unforeseen development on the diplomatic-security front (both the 2006 Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead in Gaza took place in the summer months) have been proven wrong.

At home, we briefly discussed heading in to join the Jerusalem protest last night. After Shabbat ended after 8 pm, though, we realized we had run out of toilet paper. So we waited for the local supermarket to open up, we did a couple other errands around town. Then I noticed that one of my favorite films – 12 Angry Men (not the lesser remake with Tony Danza but the black and white original with Henry Fonda, Martin Balsam et al) was on cable at 10 p.m.). And to top if off, from my porch I could see that the traffic headed into Jerusalem was way backed up at the roadblock on the Ma’aleh Adumim-Jerusalem border, approximately a 20 minute wait by my eagle-eye assessment. Whether the travellers were headed to the rally or to a movie at the Jerusalem Cinemateque was unclear.

So we missed the rally, as 300,000 of our fellow citizens took to the streets to demand their basic rights that come with living in a democracy – of not just cable TV and soft toilet paper, but the right to earn a living.

I hope to make the next rally – if I don’t, I may start thinking that instead of being part of the solution, I’m part of the problem.

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