Jaffa arts festival threatens to unseat Tel Aviv's centennial biennale
To counterbalance what they see as a shortage of city-sponsored centennial events in Jaffa, a group of artists are using Facebook to independently set up Jaffa's first international arts biennale. They say it could just eclipse Tel Aviv's own official art happening this year.
In explaining the Jaffa event's role in the celebrations, chief organizer Ted Barr notes that out of dozens of events planned for the city of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, only a few will actually take place in Jaffa - one of the city's most important cultural, historical and touristic assets. "Without any funding from the city or elsewhere, we have managed to get 120 artists from all over the world to come here in October for a multi-focal biennale which will be spread out all over Jaffa," Barr says.
The municipality is already planning an official international biennale for September, as part of Tel Aviv's centennial program. Barr says he has tried to interest the city in combining his event into the city's biennale, but received a negative response from several municipal offices, including the tourism department.
When queried about the possibility of a merger, the media department of the city's centennial celebrations department said they were not familiar with the Jaffa event. "We have our own biennale, but the Jaffa thing sounds like a good project," said spokesperson Eitan Schwartz. "The city wishes the organizers the best of luck."
Schwartz stressed that in planning the centennial celebrations, the city devoted a whole month (July) to Jaffa, as well as other events throughout the year. "Tel Aviv is celebrating 100 years. Jaffa is not, and that's a plain historical fact," he said. "Despite this, we have taken special care to hold many events in Jaffa."
The idea for the Jaffa biennale started with a group of artists who joined a group called "Current Art" on the social networking Web site Facebook. Using personal and online contacts, Barr and the 20-member Jaffa biennale board have brought in artists such as the Canadian surrealist painter Octavian Florescu, photographer Rene Roalf Jensen from Denmark, French artist Judith Darmont and many young artists from Turkey, Greece, Italy, South America and elsewhere.
According to Barr, who was born in north Tel Aviv 52 years ago, city officials told him that to be included in the centennial events, one needs to apply two years in advance. "But our project was only born in November," he says.
The event in Jaffa will require a budget of about at NIS 1 million. "I think that eventually the city will have to increase its involvement in this event because it's becoming too big to ignore," Barr said. "We had planned for a much smaller event but now we need platforms - and we need curators, lighting and amplification," he added.
At present, the centennial Jaffa international biennale is planned to open on October 4, 2009 at the old port.
Meanwhile, the centennial celebrations will begin in earnest today, with a city-wide hundredth birthday party which will begin in the old Templer neighborhood of Sarona and spread to Ibn Gvirol Street, David Hamelech Street, Rothschild Boulevard and the surrounding areas. In parallel, festivities are planned to take place in 30 areas in the city's northern and southern neighborhoods such as Kikar Hamedina and Levinsky Park.
Also today, the city will host the festive opening of the centennial international theater season. Tomorrow, Rabin Square - which will serve as a major centennial focus point this month - will hold a free-entry gala celebration and performances by artists Matti Caspi, Alona Daniel, the Tel Aviv Philharmonic and others.
On April 17, the square will see an event entitled "The Centennial Photo," a cinematic tribute to the city's founders and builders, to be shown on a giant screen. On April 24, runners will pour sweat at the Tel Aviv marathon. Other liquids - mainly beer and artificial foam - will await revelers at the Rabin Square Independence Day celebration on April 28.
Russian stars will perform in Yarkon Park on May 14, at an event entitled "From Russia With Love." On that same day and until June 6, the Suzanne Dellal center will hold an international dance festival under the banner "The Big Stage."
The neighborhood in which the center is situated, Neveh Tzedek, will also be central to the "Little Tel Aviv" festival scheduled to begin on May 27, offering a nostalgic look at old Tel Aviv and the historic "White City."
Other centennial events throughout the year include a special centennial-themed Gay Pride parade (June 12 on Herbert Samuel Street) and the inauguration of the Blue Route in Jaffa (June 17-19) for walkers and tourists.
La Scala from Milan will perform Verdi's Requiem in an opera performance at the Yarkon Park on July 16. Other planned events include the October 17 Centennial Bike Ride, and the inauguration of the newly-renovated Habima theater building in November. The closing event will be on December 17, with the opening of the new museum of history of Tel Aviv on Bialik Street.
For a complete and updated English-language list of events, visit: www.tlv100.co.il