Foto Friday – Beyond Realistic Representation: Constantiner Photography Award

Two photographers were named winners of the 2011 Constantiner Photography Award for an Israeli Artist. Both Ilit Azoulay and Liat Elbling, writes curator Nili Goren, “represent a significant trend prevalent recently in Israeli photography, centering on a renewed discussion of seeing, remembering and documenting, through the use of processing, simulating and assembling—originating in direct photography but removed from it, thus creating paradoxical environments.”

Elbling’s work combines photography and computer digital processing. “I photograph raw material, then deconstruct and re-organize it on the computer,” she writes. “The process is comprised of several stages and operates in layers, while keeping the logic of the photographic order intact.

Untitled Photo by Liat Elbling

“The main themes in my work relate to photography as a representation of reality and to the relationship between photography and memory. I am fascinated by the manner in which photography is considered reliable testimony and used to mediate reality.”

(A) Part #50888970 Photo by Liat Elbling

“My work focuses on uncovering scenes and images that posses day-to-day familiarity but at the same time, it’s seems like they have been exaggerated or have lost the ability to function.”

Azoulay, who received her MFA from the Bezalel Art Academy last year, stated, “I start with an attempt to create a place and only then to document it in a photograph; to detach objects from their usual adjectives, to annul the common familiar meaning they hold and rearrange them into a different and coherent reality.”

A space for a man with a chair Photo by Ilit Azoulay

About Azoulay’s work, Goren writes: “Like an archaeological study that sorts and catalogues findings from the past, she collects remnants of the present and applies onto them a clear regularity of gaze and photographic conditions, and assembles a continuous pictorial sequence devoid of thematic meaning.”

Room #8, 2011 (detail) Photo by Ilit Azoulay

“The space achieved in the final photograph subverts the spatial logic of sensual vision, its photographic representation and their (the gaze’s as well as the photograph’s) interpretation through the human brain, i.e. with consciousness tools.”

Tunnel Photo by Ilit Azoulay

The Tel Aviv Museum of Art – Leon and Michaela Constantiner Photography Award for an Israeli Artist was founded in 1999. Award recipients include Pesi Girsch (1999); Dalia Amotz, Simcha Shirman, Ori Gersht (2000); Barry Frydlender, Hanna Sahar (2001); Lee Yanor, Galia Gur-Zeev (2002); Adi Nes (2003); Reli Avrahami (2004); Leora Laor, Igael Shemtov, Pavel Wolberg (2005); Roi Kuper (2006); Michal Chelbin (2007); Yanai Toister (2008); Naomi Leshem (2009). In addition to the Prize, the photographers’ works are entered into the Museum collection.

Foto Friday – Hula Valley Bird Festival

More than just birds migrated this week to the Hula Valley, one of the most important stopover and wintering sites for migratory birds through the Great Rift Valley. This week marked the opening of the Hula Valley International Bird Festival, part of a five-part series of international birding events in the Galilee.

Each year, the Valley hosts thousands of Common Cranes, Pelicans, Ducks, Waders and Passerines. Over 300 species are seen here annually including very rare European birds of prey. (A full checklist of birds migrating through the Hula Valley is available here).

According to the event organizers, KKL Agamon-Hula Park and Hula Nature Reserve, “We believe it is time to spotlight the region as the world class birding destination that it is, and the way to do so is through a large scale birdwatching event.” The result: the Hula Valley Bird Festival, a one week event running from November 24th to 27th offered birding tours, art exhibition, photography seminars, a large scale scientific conference and much more.

“Much more” includes last night’s concert by seven time Grammy award winning musician Paul Winter, performing a new bird migration-inspired piece, Flyways, which takes inspiration from ethnic music from the countries along the migration route — Africa, the Middle East and Europe — embellished with bird songs and calls.

The scientific conference focused on various aspects of stopover site conservation such as habitat protection, migration ecology, climate change, regional cooperation and site networks, national and international policy and programming, public awareness and eco-tourism.

The photography seminar, “Cranes, Kingfishers and more in the Hula Valley”, led by renowned photographer Thomas Krumenacker and other leading nature photographers, focused on the Valley’s most important wintering species, the Common Crane.

“The Hula Valley in winter is probably among the best places in the world to get up close and personal with these beautiful birds.”

“Besides the Cranes we will spend time with some of the valleys other beautiful species like three different species of Kingfishers, Pelicans, wintering raptors and more.”

Berlin-based Krumenacker has been to Israel many times to photograph the Hula Valley. More photos can be viewed and purchased from his website.

All images are copyrighted by Thomas Krumenacker and come courtesy of the Hula Valley International Bird Festival website.

Nostalgia Sunday – Tel Aviv’s new wing takes flight

The new wing of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art opened last week with the fanfare befitting to a world-class museum building for Israel’s cultural hub. Patrons were treated to a week of festivities, exclusive exhibition previews, cocktail parties, dinners, concerts, a symposium on Contemporary Architecture of Museums with the architect of the new building, and a glittering opening gala in the presence of Shimon Peres, President of the State of Israel, Ron Huldai, Mayor of Tel Aviv and a Who’s Who directory of local celebrities.

The Herta and Paul Amir Building is being touted as Israel’s answer to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Its proponents hope that Tel Aviv will be touched by the magical “Bilbao Effect” in which the building itself becomes a tourist destination. Interestingly, its architect, Preston Scott Cohen, calls the new wing, “An antidote to the Bilbao phenomenon, the new building of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art represents a new direction: an interiorized and socialized space of spectacle, as opposed to the ’90s model of an exterior sculptural object displayed to the city.”

Spectacle or sculptural, the 195,000 square foot new wing is an exciting break with the past. Built to house the museums’s ever-expanding collection contemporary art, the structure centers around a monumental sculpture, the Lightfall, that reaches toward a skylight which sends natural light into the building’s interior. Ramps and stairs spiraling down around the Lightfall provide access to the galleries, art library, center for Architecture and Design, 400-seat auditorium and ancillary spaces.

Although Cohen takes inspiration from the White City’s Bauhaus Modernism, it’s a far cry from the old building, designed in the Brutalist style by architects Dan Eytan and the late Yitzhak Yashar, which was completed in 1971, and for which Eytan and Yashar won the Rechter Prize of Architecture.

And it’s an every farther cry from the first Tel Aviv Museum on Rothschild Boulevard, the historic Modernist building that was home to Meir Dizengoff, the first mayor of Tel Aviv, and the site where the State of Israel was declared.

Throughout its various incarnations, however, the spirit of the museum belongs to artist Marc Chagall.

According to a lovely essay on the American Friends of the Tel Aviv Museum website, “Mayor Dizengoff had a vision of Tel Aviv becoming a great commercial and cultural center. After building houses, a movie theater, hospital, synagogue and slaughterhouse, bath houses and other structures the Mayor began to feel the need to foster beauty—which meant art and an art museum.

“Dizengoff visited Paris in 1930, met Chagall and asked his help in establishing a museum. The… artist readily accepted. In a letter to Dizengoff after meeting him in Paris and prior to his first visit to Israel, Chagall stated: “‘. . . we are prepared to help you. I am happy that finally a Jew has emerged who wants to establish a Jewish museum, and who understands how indispensable it is (not only as a useful element of tourism) . . . in the major centers of Europe and America, societies of friends of the Jewish museum should be established . . . to collect money and artistic material fit for a museum.’

“Chagall visited Tel Aviv a year later. Tel Aviv had a population of 50,000 people and three repertory theaters. Mayor Dizengoff had donated his home as the future Tel Aviv Museum of Art. The Mayor met Chagall, his wife and daughter at the head of the city’s fire brigade. Horse races on the seashore were organized in Chagall’s honor.

“At a reception in Tel Aviv Chagall said “I am amazed how a handful of people, surrounded by hatred, rather than love, builds and creates a new land. I am jealous of your idealism, and I wish you from the bottom of my heart to continue what you started. And for me I wish to come and wallow among you, and maybe I shall be able as an artist to do something for your future Jewish museum as well . . .”

“Chagall advised Mayor Dizengoff as to what works should be included in the Museum’s collection. Chagall’s work ‘Jew with Torah’ was the very first work to enter the Museum.

“The Museum has thirteen masterworks by Marc Chagall. Three works were a gift of the artist, the remaining ten works and many others were donated by friends from around the world. Marc Chagall visited Israel eight times. He died at the age of 97 [in 1985] in Saint-Paul de Vence, France.”

To honor the new wing, the Museum opened a special exhibition entitled Five Moments: Trajectories in the Architecture of the Tel Aviv Museum which presents “five key moments in the Museum’s history through five architectural prisms, providing two different and complementary viewpoints that turn these moments into a complete cultural continuum.”

Hopefully, Chagall’s contribution is mentioned as a force driving those trajectories. It’s nice to think of his spirit infusing the new wing, with lovers, doves, cows, sheep and fiddlers, all in constant ascension along the Lightfall towards the open sky.

Foto Friday – Dead Sea wonders

There’s now less than a week before voting closes for the New7Wonders of Nature, part of the New7Wonders movement, an international campaign to create seven symbols of heritage and nature. Here in Israel, unless you’ve been living under a rock, or a large salt formation, you probably know that the Dead Sea is among the leading candidates, having made it to the top 28 sites worldwide, out of hundreds.

What you might not know is that this nomination was put forth by three partners: Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, whose respective Tourism Authorities have been promoting the campaign this week in a final race to the finish.

High atop Tel Aviv’s Azrieli Tower, a giant counter is now ticking away, showing the time left to vote. The Ministry of Tourism and the Prime Minister’s Office has called upon the public to vote for the Dead Sea, either by texting “11.11.11″ to the number 2244 with the words: Dead Sea in English, Hebrew or Arabic, or online at the Ministry of Tourism’s website or on the campaign’s official website. Or you can just click on the New7Wonders link on the right-hand side of this page.

The New7Wonders of Nature campaign launched in 2007, immediately after the successful campaign to elect the man-made Official New 7 Wonders of the World. Its been reported on by Israelity since David first blogged about the nomination three years ago and a year later, when ISRAEL21c reported that the nomination was confirmed.

Various events promoting the campaign have included dancer-choreographer Ido Tadmor dance on the Dead Sea’s salty banks, a delegation of Harley-Davidson motorcycle bikers, and most recently, a mass naked happening by performance artist Spencer Tunick.

And now, as Brian wrote a few weeks ago, we are down to the final stretch.

The campaign has also been backed by regional environmental organization Friends of the Earth Middle East, who met this summer with New7Wonders President and Founder Bernard Weber and New7Wonders Director Jean-Paul de la Fuente to discuss their aligned interests.

Weber was quoted as saying, “New7Wonders and Friends of the Earth Middle East share the same nature-without-borders vision for the Dead Sea, and will continue to work together to ensure that positive and active participation in the New7Wonders of Nature will help foster dialogue and collaboration around natural and environmental objectives.”

Visit the New7Wonders website to vote, view and upload images to their online photo gallery, watch videos and read stories about the Dead Sea. Voting for the New7Wonders of Nature ends on 11.11.11, and the campaign to name the New7Wonders Cities has just launched. Jerusalem, anyone?

Pictures courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism, New7Wonders.

Foto Friday – Michael Silverman’s Beautiful Weeds

Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese practice of situating built environments — buildings, rooms and even furniture — in spots with auspicious chi, meaning good life-force or energy. Photographer Michael Silverman, who is also a Feng Shui master, lives in such a place: the village of Clil, an ecologically-minded community in the foothills of the Western Galilee overlooking the Mediterranean.

Founded in 1979, Clil’s unique character has been determined by not only by its residents — many of whom are professional artists, artisans, musicians and writers — but by the surrounding landscape, fields and orchards planted over the years.

Silverman trained as a commercial photographer in the US and began studying Feng Shui in 1972. After moving to Israel in 1974 he worked in advertising, multimedia and later on, as high-tech in Israel gathered steam, in software, multimedia and Internet design.

Today, he teaches design and photography, and acts as a consultant to businesses interested in using Feng Shui principles in the workplace.

According to Chinese scripture, “Chi rides the wind and scatters but is retained when encountering water” (the term Feng Shui actually translates to “wind-water”). The art of creating a framework for the untamed describes perfectly the latest photographic series from Silverman, Weeds 2011.

Within his viewfinder, a simple blade of grass suddenly gains form and stature…

The world reflected in a drop of water…

A half-dead dandelion takes on new life…

More photos can be found on Michael Silverman’s Picasa page, Facebook page, and YouTube channel, where he’s also shared some lovely slideshows. Here’s one to start with. Enjoy.

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