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  • Talma Gotteiner

Tel-Aviv University Exhibition: Defense Lines - Maginot, Bar-Lev and Beyond

Hi there!

I am happy to share with you information about an exhibition that will be taking place at the Genia Schreiber University Art Gallery and Michel Kikoïne Foundation at Tel Aviv University.

WHEN: 29.11.18 – 6.6.19

“Defense Lines: Maginot, Bar-Lev and Beyond” is presented at the as one of the events of the 2018 France-Israel Cultural Season.

The exhibit is part of the project “Defense Lines” at the University Art Gallery, an initiatory collaboration between the Gallery and the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), also co-sponsored by the “Ha’aretz” newspaper. The project includes theater performances by students from the Tel Aviv University Theater Arts Department and films corresponding to the central theme of “Defense Lines”, curated by students from the Tisch School of Film and Television. In addition, there will be tours, seminars, and lectures run by the INSS, featuring researchers, analysts, strategists, politicians, journalists and military personnel.

Participating artists: Marina Abramovi, Ulay Laysiepen, Alexander Guirkinger, Micha Bar-Am, Assaf Evron, Netta Laufer, Amir Balaban, Yael Lavie “Defense Lines” Chief Curators: Galia Gur Zeev, Dr. Sefy Hendler

Defense Lines - Maginot, Bar-Lev and Beyond, Genia Schreiber University Art Gallery

In “Defense Lines: Maginot, Bar-Lev and Beyond”, the sources, character and implications of fortification are examined from a historical point of view. It shows how prior impressive fortifications have been destroyed and abandoned, left to the mercy of nature, to become monuments of failure, serving as testimony of fundamental human fear.

The exhibit centers on photographs of two famous fortification lines: the French Maginot Line, a fortificaton line built in the 1930s to deter German agression and the Israeli Bar-Lev Line, a fortification built along the eastern bank of the Suez Canal after the six-day war to deter Egyptian assault. Both fortifications are linked to this day with personal and national traumas. Alongside these central displays are works on the Great Wall of China, the wall between the United States and Mexico and the Israeli separation fence.

Dr. Sefy Hendler, Defense Lines: Maginot, Bar-Lev and Beyond, Genia Schreiber University Art Gallery

Above: Micha Bar-Am, Egyptian outpost, west of theSuez canal, War of Attrition, 1971, Archival Inkjet Print presented by Dr. Sefy Hendler, Chief Curator

The exhibition traces how defense lines function and how they affect their surrounding environments, including the way they scar the human and natural landscape. It strives to uncover the meanings of defense lines, not only in the military and political spheres, but in the context of an environmental, psychological, and emotional conversation as well. Landscape photographs are brought together with journalistic photographs, nature films, a documentary film that incorporates archival footage, and performance art. By placing these various works side by side, the exhibit encourages viewers to reconsider the promises and illusions involved in the act of fortification and sharpens their awareness that every fortification line, from the moment of its construction, already contains the moment of its destruction.

Galia Gur ZeDefense Lines: Maginot, Bar-Lev and Beyond, Genia Schreiber University Art Gallery

Above: Galia Gur Zeev, Chief Curator presenting Micha Bar-Am's works.

At the Gallery, the Tel Aviv University Theater Arts Department will stage The Claim of Don Quixote by playwright Gilad Evron (1955-2016). The play is directed by Ilil Lev Canaan and performed by Carlos Gharzuzi, Eldad Ben-Tora, Hadar Gabai, Ran Antebi and David Amsallem. It deals with psychological boundaries, the reflection of the “I” in the other, and the realistic, imaginative, and artistic possibilities for coming together across these boundaries. Staged alongside images of fortifications in the exhibit, the play raises issues of emotional defense lines.

After hearing that the book written about them casts doubt on their heroism, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are trapped between their story, already written, and the possibility of telling the story anew. In order to save Dulcinea Del Toboso, whom they have never met, they strive to set out on their way but end up remaining in place. The mythological, heroic journey questions the meaning of truth when there are infinite possibilities for duplication, the relationship between the original and its imitation, and the place of art amidst battles and warfare. The Theater Arts Department will also present the performance art piece Youthful Silence, directed by undergraduate David Amsallem, a work depicting the complexities of soldiers’ daily life.

Defense Lines: Maginot, Bar-Lev and Beyond, Genia Schreiber University Art Gallery

Above: Assaf Evron, Untitled (San Diego, Prototype of a Wall), 2018, Vinyl print as presented at the gallery.

Artists and Works Featured in the Exhibit: Marina Abramovi, a radical performance artist, was born in Yugoslavia in 1946. Ulay Laysiepen, photographer and artist, was born in Germany in 1943. The two met in Amsterdam in 1976 and began their artistic collaboration, which continued for more than a decade. During this period, they created many performance art pieces which dealt with conflicts in couples’ relationships and pushed the boundaries of the body, the ego, and artistic identity. Extreme and violent, these pieces represented the nullification of personal space, both physically and psychologically. The work presented in this exhibit is the couple’s farewell piece, which takes place on top of the Great Wall of China, in which the two walk towards each other for ninety days and over a distance of 2500 km., up to their meeting which becomes a farewell. The artwork infuses the concept of a wall with layers of meaning: it becomes a place where, on both the personal and psychological levels, connection and separation can coincide.

Alexandre Guirkinger, photographer, was born in Paris in 1980. Since 2006 he has been working as a freelance documentary photographer for leading magazines such as Le Monde, Die Zeit Magazine, Wall Street Journal Magazine, AD Magazine, and Wallpaper. His works were part of a comprehensive exhibit, “The Line”, which was displayed at the photography festival in Arles, France, in 2016. The series in “Defense Lines” presents photographs of the Maginot Line, an area which was Guirkinger’s childhood playground, and documents dozens of bunkers and buildings which remained hidden under the layered landscape. His work is a fascinating visual investigation of the interfaces between landscape, border, military architecture, and forces of nature.

Micha Bar-Am (b. 1930), is a recipient of the Israel Prize and a founder of the photography department at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. His photographic archive includes a wide range of work, from documentations of the public sphere to expressions of intimate spaces. Bar-Am covered pivotal events in the country’s history, and many of his photographs have become foundational icons of the Israeli collective memory. “Defense Lines” presents one of the most famous series of photographs by Bar-Am covering the Bar-Lev Line in the years 1969-1974. This fortification line, erected along the Suez Canal between Israel and Egypt, collapsed in the Yom Kippur War (1973) and came to emblematize in the public mind a negligence experienced in that traumatic war. The series incorporates sharp and static panoramic landscape views in black and white, photographed before the war; color landscapes displayed here for the first time, depicting slightly blurry views, from afar, of the Egyptian shoreline from the opposite bank of the canal. Finally, it includes photographs of people at decisive moments, which were taken on the battlefield in real time, reflecting tension and terror under life-threatening danger. This unique collection of photographs is rare in its authenticity. In it, the photographer himself becomes part of the fighting force, his presence made visible by his intimate closeness to the soldiers.

Assaf Evron, artist, was born in Ramat Hasharon in 1977, and lives and works in Chicago. Evron holds a BA in History and Cultural Studies and an MA from the Cohen Institute at Tel Aviv University. He holds an MFA degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), where he is a lecturer. Evron displays his work at many exhibits in Israel and abroad, including the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art (2019, forthcoming), Herzliya Museum of Art (2017), and the Andrea Meislin Gallery in New York (2015). He has been awarded the Gerard Levi Prize from the Israel Museum, an Artis grant, and the Snider Prize from the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago. In “Defense Lines”, Evron displays a photograph of a sample from the wall between Mexico and the United States. The aesthetic consideration invested in these samples raises moral questions about architects’ and designers’ roles in constructing a separation barrier. The photograph in the exhibit is 4.50 x 4.50 meters, intended to confront the viewer with the effect of the wall and its powerful dimensions.

Netta Laufer, born in Jerusalem in 1986, is a graduate of the Photography Department of Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem, and holds an MFA degree from the Photography and Video Department of the School for Visual Arts (SVA) in New York. Laufer’s work has appeared in exhibits in Israel and abroad. In “Defense Lines”, she presents a video work which originated with footage taken by army surveillance cameras placed along the separation fence between Israel and the West Bank, intended to track human activity on both sides of the fence. The film focuses on the fence’s effect on wild animals and their habitats, thus offering a new point of view on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Amir Balaban, born in 1964 in Jerusalem, is a graduate of the Photography Department of Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. Balaban is a naturalist at SPNI (the Israeli Society for the Protection of Nature), photographer, birder, painter, and expert on urban nature, whose artwork integrates environmental activism. In “Defense Lines”, he presents a film that examines the Israeli separation fence from a new angle by considering the ecological consequences and the fence’s influence on the living world surrounding it. Balaban shows how fencing off areas enables the Israeli deer to multiply and thrive, but he also depicts the absurdity in the separation: two deer, who appear to be mirror images of each other, confront one another from opposite sides of the fence, frustrated by their inability to actualize their conflict.

Yael Lavie, Israeli-American journalist, editor, producer, writer, and director, was born in New York in 1972 and lives in Tel Aviv. She has worked as an investigative reporter, editor, and producer on Sky News and ABC News, was involved in special reports on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the capture of Bin Laden and the terrorist attacks of September 11, and received the American Emmy award for news and documentaries. She founded the video department of the “Ha’aretz” newspaper’s site and currently serves as a lecturer at IDC Herzliya on media ethics in the digital age. In “Defense Lines”, Lavie presents a documentary film dealing with a narrative of the Yom Kippur War from the Egyptian side. The film incorporates Egyptian archival footage depicting a reenactment of the Egyptians razing the sand berm on the Israeli side during the war. Her film raises important questions about the relationship between documentation and reenactment in constructing narratives of national victory.

The exhibit is dedicated to the memory of Paul Virilio (1932-2018), who passed away this year. The curators maintained an ongoing conversation with him during the preparation of the exhibit. Virilio was a professor of architecture, a philosopher, an urbanist, a leading French thinker, and author of the book “Bunker Architecture” (1975), in which he defined the bunker as a rare example of monolithic modern architecture. Unlike most buildings, the bunker has no foundations, and its homogeneity reflects the essence of modern warfare.

Best, Talma

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