Further exploring notions of control and diverse perspectives, Nevet Yitzhak’s audio/video installation A Great Joy Tonight (2009) explores the construction of cultural identity in relationship to displacement and changes in the political landscape. In this work, Yitzhak processes archival recordings from the Israeli Broadcasting Authority (IBA) Arabic Orchestra (1948–1993), to create a new composition. Altering their speed, duration and sequencing, the artist collages fragments from various performances into one unified piece where the sounds and visuals work together seamlessly. By deconstructing and reconstructing these archival materials, she creates an immersive, haunting musical and visual environment that explores the influence of marginalized traditions on the construction of identity and cultural patrimony.
Most of the musicians in the IBA Arabic Orchestra were Jewish immigrants from Iraq and Egypt who arrived in Israel in the early 1950s and preserved the cultural influences, languages and music they brought with them. Their repertoire included original compositions as well as music from the Arab world, becoming a key institution of Arabic music in Israel and drawing listeners from the entire region. The title of Yitzhak’s work references sociologist Inbal Perlson’s book of the same name, which studies the political and historical circumstances that led these musicians to keep their heritage alive.7 According to Perlson, these musicians immigrated to Israel as artists, a profession uniquely defined by its cultural borders, in which one’s cultural identity is part of his or her trade. In Israel after 1948 – a new country that sought to relinquish the “Levant spirit” – preserving an Arabic cultural identity was not a valid option. Nonetheless, the immigrant musicians chose to maintain it, becoming “Mizrachi Jews,” an Arab-like identity thus at odds with the image of the new Israeli Jew. The recurrent re-definition of identity can be traced throughout Jewish people’s history, linked to events such as the medieval rediscovery of Greek thought, and the modern Jewish Enlightenment and Emancipation. Jewish philosophy has constantly attempted to reconcile new ideas into a uniquely Jewish scholastic framework. With A Great Joy Tonight, Yitzhak highlights a recent incarnation of this struggle, giving voice again to a repressed but vital side of contemporary Jewish identity.
The starting point of the mystical attitude toward religious truth is a deep doubt in communication, written as well as oral. Mysticism starts where language ends, and is therefore a distinctively personal experience. As a unique root in each individual’s “flower pot,” the metaphysic finds its way into everyday life, even in this contemporary, secular world. PARDES reflects upon this mystical attitude embedded in the transcendental world through complex yet interconnected artworks that accept doubt as an entry point. Dynamically sharing physical and acoustic space, the works merge into each other in an ever-changing, live composition. The boundaries between them become ambiguous, allowing room for our own intuitive questions, uncertainties and misgivings around the spiritual realm.
Koffler Gallery: Pardes Exhibition Audio/Video Tour from Koffler Centre of the Arts on Vimeo.
1 Ezekiel 1:15–21.
2 A.B. Yehoshua, A Journey to the End of the Millennium – A Novel of the Middle Ages, trans. Nicholas de Lange (New York: Doubleday, 1999), prologue.
3 Ahad Ha’Am, Selected essays, Moses, trans. Leon Simon (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1912), 306.
4 Including Max Weber, Emile Durkheim and Karl Marx, as well as several giants of modern intellectual life, including Sigmund Freud and Bertrand Russell.
5 See Peter L. Berger, ed., The Desecularization of the World: Resurgent Religion and World Politics (Washington, D.C.: Ethics and Public Policy Center, c. 1999).
6 Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Judaism, Human Values, and the Jewish State, trans. Eliezer Goldman and Yoram Navon, and by Zvi Jacobson, Gershon Levi, and Raphael Levy (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992), 129.
7 Inbal Perlson, A Great Joy Tonight, Arab-Jewish Music and Mizrachi Identity (Resling Publishing: Tel Aviv, 2006).
Nadav Assor www.nadassor.net
Ira Eduardovna www.iragallery.com
Amnon Wolman www.amnonwolman.org
Nevet Yitzhak nogagallery.com
Liora Belford is a Canadian/Israeli curator currently based in Toronto. Belford’s curatorial practice spans the experimental sonic realm, aiming to establish research spaces that ask questions rather than unfolding narratives and doctrines. Belford has curated various exhibitions in private and public spaces in Israel, and was the curator and director of ST-ART, the first Israeli artist incubator project established by art collector Serge Tiroche. Belford has received numerous grants and awards in Israel and Canada, and holds the 2014 SSHRC merit scholarship for her graduate studies at the University of Toronto.
Design: Tony Hewer | Editing: Shannon Anderson and Mona Filip
Digital publication to the exhibition PARDES
Presented by the Koffler Gallery | September 18 to November 30, 2014 | Guest Curator: Liora Belford
© Koffler Centre of the Arts, 2014, in collaboration with the individual contributors. All rights reserved. ISBN 978-1-928175-03-2.