The reason of our trip to Jerusalem was a workshop that we have organised together with the
Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. However, during our 10-day stay, we also had the opportunity to learn about the new and history-influenced culture, the place itself.
Tel-Aviv, the city with the main international airport in Israel is relatively small and very vibrant; it is a young city with distinctly modern architecture. Unlike in Jerusalem, majority of Tel-Aviv’s population does not adhere to conservative values, proclaiming simple atheism. Or, as the people say themselves – atheistic hedonism – since they got used to the constant threat of a terrorist attack.
At first sight, Jerusalem is different. With the exception of the Dome of the Rock’s golden cupola located in the heart of the city, one rule has applied for centuries to all buildings in the entire city: they all have to be roofed with stone from Jerusalem. Thus, the gritty rock of Jerusalem is ubiquitous, reminding us of a desert even in the most modern of the city’s quarters. The streets of old Jerusalem are roamed by people of all kinds of religions – orthodox, Sephardic or Chassidic Jews, Muslims, together with Armenian, Syrian, Coptic, Orthodox, Greek- and Roman-Catholic Christians. Because every young man aged 21-23 and woman aged 21-22 must complete a mandatory military service, it is simply the result of statistics that three to four people out of one hundred are dressed in a green uniform, carrying a machine gun or other weapon. Such sight is not easy to get used to.
The Bezalel Academy has many features common with AFAD. It too is seated in several buildings, with the administrative building and the department of architecture being located in the city centre, while the other departments are on a hilltop several kilometres from the centre. The headquarters is a large, modernist building with grand premises and studios. The school’s technical background is on a very high level. The canteen offers a wide choice of oriental high-quality meals.
From a political point of view, the school finds itself on a complicated territory – it is located on a territorial island within the Palestinian territory. As a result, the only way to get to the school is either by bus, by own car or by a taxi.
The Bezalel Academy’s Video and Documentary film departments (Screenbased Arts) are separate from the department of Fine Arts. Due to the nature of our work, we have cooperated with students of the video-art department and its head, Sharon Balaban.
Our workshop consisted of three parts. After consulting with Sharon, we have synchronised our program with an exhibition that was taking place alongside our workshop. On the first day, we have presented information about the erazmus+ exchange programme, about our school, about the Department of Intermedia, about the individual studios, and we have presented our fine arts portfolios. The presentation for the entire department of Screenbased Arts took place in the large lecture hall. Seeing the interest from the students, Sharon has decided the workshop will be open to all school years. The workshop activities took place the next day in the premises of a community gallery located in the city centre. We took turns talking to students about interventions in public space, about civil activism, sound art, about the sensitivity that is necessary for this type of artistic work. Following voice exercises, we moved to a marketplace, where we collected materials together with the students. We have created a sound file entitled the “Jerusalem Moving Market Orchestra”, which, through the voices of the performers, has transported the sounds of the marketplace to more quiet parts of the city. Next, we applied our knowledge in real life: students were looking for different ways of intervening in the public space and thus draw attention to the city’s memory. Later, we summarised the day and our new knowledge. In the evening, in the same gallery we held an exhibition of works by student of higher years. On the third day, we held tutorial consultations, where students presented their portfolios and we talked to them about possible directions for their development, also in the context of public interventions from the previous day.
An exhibition held at the Islamic Museum came as an interesting highlight of our stay. During one evening, Sharon Balaban introduced us to numerous dignitaries and important figures of Jerusalem’s arts scene.
Our workshop received a very warm and positive feedback, both from Sharon, from other pedagogues, as well as from students themselves.
For us, this experience was quite enriching from the pedagogical and the cooperative point of view.
The city itself is fascinating, capable of satisfying all senses. It offers more sounds, colours, scents, stones and stories than one is capable of comprehending in the space of ten days. But perhaps not even a couple of decades might not be enough.
Mgr. art. András Cséfalvay, ArtD.
Mgr. art Jaroslav Kyša