Dreams and Dramas by Samantha Adler

Samantha Adler is the assistant curator for the largest exhibition of Israeli contemporary art ever presented in the Baltic States, Dreams and Dramas, opening Oct. 6 in Riga, Latvia. Curated by Roy Brand, it will also feature work from Asylum Alumni Eitan Ben Moshe, Erez Israeli and Sagit Mezamer.

I recently returned to Israel after spending two years in Boston completing my MFA. This had not been a self-evident decision. A more logical step as a young art graduate would have been to extend my visa and move to New York City. Boston had offered me two years of studious isolation which had tremendously shifted and refined my artistic practice, an experience that had gone hand in hand with the city’s irreducible otherness: its neatly upkept apartments, its coldly polite passersby, and its beautifully landscaped public gardens. I dearly missed Tel Aviv. The incessant bustling in the streets, where every corner holds manifold stories (personal, political, historical), the warm friendly embraces, the general sense of openness and sometimes unbearable straightforwardness, and even the recurring sense of fear, despair and disgust countered with unabashed vitality. All of this had gotten deeply under my skin.

Just a couple of weeks after my return to Tel Aviv, I started assisting Israeli curator and philosophy professor Roy Brand in producing a large group exhibition in Riga, Latvia:

“Dreams and Dramas: Intensities from contemporary Israel” will open on October 6 in the impressive space of a former cork factory. Commissioned by the independent art organization and publishing house ARTERRITORY, it will be the largest exhibition of Israeli art ever presented in the Baltic States, bringing together fourteen artists including three Asylum Arts alumni: Eitan Ben-Moshe, Sagit Mezamer, and Erez Israeli.

Sagit Mezamer, Mother of Opium, 2017
Sagit Mezamer, Mother of Opium, 2017
I immediately connected with Roy Brand’s ambition to showcase Israeli artists whose works mirror Israel’s intensity and endless contradictions: the country’ earthiness is infused with spirituality and mythologies, its pioneering hopes are imprinted with past traumas, its present-day developments as a country and society are tightly entangled with the ongoing political conflict. This selection specifically reflects a generation of artists who have consciously decided to break away from deep theorisations, logic and good taste; instead finding in the immersion in the present, in all its confused sensuality, a form of rebellion against the dominating sense of social and political disillusion. This is not to say that they ignore or escape their surrounding reality; but rather that “they have soberly accepted that conflict is an immanent part of it”. The question then extends way beyond the scope of contemporary Israel: “How to live and accept conflicts without resolution, and how to negotiate them and use them creatively without letting them destroy our subjective core and our public sphere?” (R. Brand) This question is ever-more relevant today, and it will be fascinating to consider how it resonates within the Baltic historical and social context.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with essays by Roy Brand, writer Ruth Margalit, and a comic strip by Tamar Blumenfeld, which each in their own way try to define and contextualize contemporary “Israeliness”. There will also be short statements by each of the showcased artists: Porat Salomon, Dor Guez, Nir Hod, Guy Zagursky, Noa Eshkol, Avner Ben-Gal, Sagit Mezamer, Erez Israeli, Keren Yeala Golan, Marik Lechner, Daniel Kiczales, Eitan Ben-Moshe, Sigalit Landau, and Yehudit Sasportas.

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