Get your children to rummage through a pile of ordinary objects, and then challenge them with the following question: Which of these objects define us as a family?
It's a question that's sure to spark some good conversation, and that's precisely the point of "Family Matters," a project that invites families from around the country and the world to take part in creating a first-of-its-kind crowd-sourced art installation at Beth Hatefutsoth - The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv. The project is the brainchild of Hanoch Piven, the Israeli mixed media artist and former Haaretz contributor, whose celebrity caricatures have earned him international acclaim.
Through Aug. 23, participating families will be able to have their very own artistic works incorporated into this huge Piven creation, which will be put on display for the general public later this month. The goal is to get 3,000 families to contribute their family portraits to the project, which carries the slogan: "You are part of the story."
"For me, this is less about art and more about communications," says the Uruguayan-born Piven, whose caricatures have appeared in Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone and the Atlantic Monthly and who conducts workshops around the world.
"It's about how we communicate among ourselves as a family, it's about the image we communicate of ourselves as a family to others, and it's about how I, as an artist, take all these images together and communicate them to the world."
Piven, who splits his time between Tel Aviv and Barcelona, was on hand for the first few days of the project and plans to return on the final day to provide feedback and tips.
"It's a project that really allows me to show my two sides – the side of me that's an artist and the side of me that's a teacher," he says, as he weaves his way around the room providing words of encouragement and helpful advice to the participating families.
Before they split off into small rooms, where specially trained staff provide ideas and guidance as well as basic supplies, participants attend a special videotaped workshop in the museum auditorium (subtitled in English), where they are taught the basics of Piven-style art – taking everyday objects and scraps and turning them into art – and given tips on how to approach the challenge of designing a family portrait in this style.
They're then given about an hour to prepare their family portrait, an activity that involves choosing the objects that best represent them as a family, giving these objects some artistic form and then gluing them in place. The portraits are then photographed in a separate room. One copy is given to the family and another copy is sent off to be digitally converted into a 10x10 centimeter pixel that gets incorporated in the installation.
The installation is spread out on a huge wall, divided up into three parts, each of which will eventually contain 1,000 family portraits reflecting a separate theme. The family portraits on the right will blend in with a larger image of Moses holding the Ten Commandments as he descends Mt. Sinai; those in the center will become part of a larger image of Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, reading the Declaration of Independence, with Theodore Herzl's face looming in the background, and those on the left will meld together with the image a man on the beach throwing a child in the air (inspired by an old Piven family photo).
As Piven explains, the images chosen are meant to depict not only milestones in Jewish history but also the transition of emphasis over time from the collective to the individual. Based on the background color of the tile your family is assigned to work on and the number imprinted on it, you can already figure out where in the larger installation your family portrait will appear.
Families interested in participating in the project need to call the museum and reserve a time slot in advance, since only a limited number of families can be accommodated at a time. The activity is suitable for children aged 3 and up.
For us, it was pretty interesting to see how many toy cell phones were stacked in the bins in our assigned workroom. Judging by how quickly they were grabbed up, it turned out we weren't the only family who saw high levels of mobile device usage as one of our defining characteristics (they also happen to stand in well for ears). The Purim grogger – which became the nose in our family portrait – should tell you something about the decibel levels in our home.
Address: Beit Hatfutsot is located on the campus of Tel Aviv University, Klausner Street, in Ramat Aviv. Entrance through Matatia Gate 2
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. - 7 p.m., from August 5 through August 23.
Cost: NIS 75 per family (up to three people) plus NIS 15 for each additional family member. Reservations can be made in advance at 03-7457808 or at email@example.com
Getting there: The Dan bus company runs several lines that stop by the museum.
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