Israeli Student Art: Combining the Political and the Personal

The 10 graduates chosen are deeply involved in what is going on around them and respond to it in their work.

Ilya Melnikov

Most exhibitions by graduates of art and photography schools have opened in the shadow of the war. The big graduation event scheduled at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem was canceled, and similar events in other schools were usually toned down as well. In the leading schools such as Hamidrasha at Beit Berl College, the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design and the Bezalel Academy, the end of the academic year is the finish line after the strikes, protests, retirements of department heads and workers’ struggles that took place this year. The disputes and internal lack of stability affected morale quite a bit, and even influenced the students’ creative process.

Close to 300 students completed their studies this year in art, photography and new media in 17 institutions of higher education. The emergence of so many young people into the job market at once makes it very tempting to engage in analyses, share insights and make statements about “this generation.” One can identify basic sociological characteristics among art-school graduates, such as the fact that in art schools on the periphery, the student body comprises mostly women, but it is hard to distill a significant statement or generalize as to what typifies art created by young people, where it is headed or what they think about.

It was not easy to choose just 10 promising B.A. graduates — there are so many more whose work has a spark, an interesting, daring angle, a captivating aesthetic or a dimension of exciting debate. The ones chosen here drew our eye by virtue of their original thinking, multi-layered creativity and unique aesthetic. The 10 graduates we chose are deeply involved in what is going on around them and respond to it, whether on the individual or the collective plane. They pick up the local situation with sensitive receptors and are able to turn their impressions into surprising, renewing and critical works of art. The only thing left to ask is whether the Israeli art world is ready for them.

“Kulu” by Michael Liani, 27, of the art department at the Minshar Art School, Tel Aviv

KULLU from Michael on Vimeo.

Liani’s project is comprised of video and still photographs. The video, which was filmed in black and white, contains scenes of life in the neighborhood in Migdal Ha’emek where Liani grew up, alongside family celebrations, parties in clubs, women, elderly people and babies, all dancing in one way or another to the enchanting, captivating rhythm of the drums.

“Wallmart” by Firas A. Sirriyeh, 26, of The Naggar school of Photography, Media, Contemporary Music, Visual Communications and Phototherapy in Musrara, Jerusalem

Sirriyeh’s work, which is made up of a game system created on a 3-D printer, includes parts made of white plastic that the purchaser can use to build a separation wall for himself and show a guard tower inside it, and build settlements and refugee camps. A seven-branched candelabrum made of cast silver is placed on a side shelf, also made of slabs of the separation wall.

“A Missing Routine” by Tom Yarkoni, 29, of the Photographic Communications school at Hadassah Academic College, Jerusalem

Yarkoni put a camera in the living rooms of four different families, where the television is, and documented their behavior in front of the screen. Her work is presented on four screens, and the viewer can go from one to another and listen, through earphones, to the ordinary conversations taking place in front of the Israeli version of the tribal campfire.

“Untitled” by Yael Oren Sofer, 31, of Oranim Academic College

Oren Sofer presented paintings on plywood, with two ceramic installations that combine pieces of painted material and wall paintings. Her work deals with various feelings of being overwhelmed and of confusion, together with joy and humor, that typify the parenting experience.

“Untitled” by Eli Singalovski, 30, of the photography department at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design

Singalovski presents a series of photographs of buildings at night. He focuses on the ordinary local architecture that is considered the ugliest and most neglected — of apartment rows, housing blocks and slums. In his photographs, the buildings’ interior and exterior lighting receives special significance, and the buildings become objects that gleam in bright light.

“My Sister” by Rotem Zakin, 28, Hamidrasha at Beit Berl College

Zakin presents the results of a year-long process during which she contacted, via a special website, girls and women who wanted to be models, met with them and offered to photograph them for her project in exchange for preparing a portfolio for them.

“Uncle Pini” by Halil Balabin, 26, of the art department at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design

Balabin’s project is about his uncle, who has been in prison for 35 years for a murder he committed in the United States. The exhibition is comprised of a corridor and two rooms paneled in green fabric. A photograph of Uncle Pini is inside one of the rooms. In the other is a video that features an albino woman who has vision problems, with only her head showing from inside the green carpeting.

“Where Are You From Originally?” by Vera Vladimirsky, 30, of the photography department at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design

Vladimirsky’s project is a series of photographs that clones the various apartments where she lived as new, imaginary apartments. The series deals with the concept of a place to live, a home or a refuge.

“Thank You for Coming” by Mika Hazan Bloom, 26, of the multidisciplinary art department at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design

Hazan Bloom presents a series of short video clips dealing with foreigners and refugees. In one of the clips, her father reprimands her by imitating her: “I’m Mika, 26 years old, and I’m afraid of being in a relationship. So I choose to live with a refugee. We hardly communicate at all ... and from this situation, a kind of autism, I try to create art.”

“Untitled” by Myssa Daher, 22, of the art department at the University of Haifa

Daher, who presented two video works and a series of paintings as her graduation project, dealt with her encounter between her day-to-day life and her need to create. Her works are gifted with humor and irony. In one video, she presented, in brief fragments, situations from her daily life with her family alongside moments where she behaves in a completely different manner, but that seems to bother no one — she dances oddly, tests the limits of a balloon and aggressively penetrates the personal space of people around her. In the second video work, she presents a variety of questions and points of view regarding Arab society in a kind of meaningless, endless loop that includes dictated starting positions on the one hand and questions that she is supposed to ask on the other.