In December 2017, the art cooperative Hamiffal in Jerusalem hosted 8 exceptional international and Israeli artists from various disciplines for 8 days during ART BNB. We were excited to support Jenny Yurshansky as our alumni participant for this exciting and innovative residency.
Packed to the gills, would be the best way for me to describe the brief and intense experience of ART BNB, the ten-day residency hosted by the HaMiffal art collective in Jerusalem. My expectations were high for an experience but skeptical, at best, about the possibility of producing anything that could be exhibition worthy given the circumstances that I would be traveling from Los Angeles and then working, living, sleeping and eating with eight other artists for less than a week and half. The theme was the 100 meters surrounding the collective and the members did an incredible job of showing us the neighborhood, describing the complex contemporary politics and the residue of the muddy histories of the site, Jerusalem, and Israel. With the ever-lively atmosphere of visitors to HaMiffal, the deeply engaging fellow residents and an amazing group of talent that makes up the HaMiffal collective it suddenly clicked on the fifth day that I would end up with two new works, and not just exercises, but finished pieces, for the closing exhibition. This realization took place in turn for each resident, who by all accounts it seems were each as surprised as I was, especially Emma Vilina Fält (FIN), who was bed bound for nearly seven days with an acute case of Bronchitis. Not to mention that over half of the HaMiffal's critical organizers were also taken out by a mystery illness. It was truly incredible to see how artists, organizers, and friends of the HaMiffal rallied to make it all work out so beautifully in the end.
The research I did, upon arriving, was dependent on some very lucky strokes. My work for the last few years has focused on blacklisted invasive plant species, using them as an allegory for human migration. I knew that because of the similar climates of Los Angeles and Israel I would be able to find blacklisted species that appear in both places. After doing a little digging, I discovered and reached out to Hagar Leschner, one of the authors of the Israeli blacklist who just happend to be a researcher at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She promptly invited me to come for a visit to THE Herbarium of Israel, where she is collection manager. She spent three hours with me; touring the campus, discussing blacklisted and native plants species, assisting with the cross-referencing research of my lists and going into detail about the Israeli perspective regarding blacklisted species and the way that historical events have shaped that point of view. She loaned me her English copy of Israel's blacklist book and a plant press from the Herbarium so that I could make an Herbarium of my own. Incredibly, in under an hour and within 100 meters of HaMiffal, I found all of twelve cross-listed California and Israeli blacklisted plants.
I created a mapped audio guide for visitors to HaMiffal by recording the residents and members. They read stories I have written in the voices of these plants. These narratives are excerpts of the book that I published this month with Pitzer College Art Galleries. I also presented an interactive three-layered cabinet which housed the pressed plants under their stories printed on vellum. I completed both works within an hour of the closing event, leaving before it ended, as I had to catch my plane back to Los Angeles. Now it has been just over a month since completing the residency, and I swear that it will still take me months more to unpack everything that occurred in those ten days. I am so grateful for the chance to have had my limits pushed and still be feeling such a residual glow. I know that the story of my connection to HaMiffal and the other residents is still unfolding.