A Little Bauhaus, A Little Berest

14 Jun

Today was our first real day in Tel Aviv. To tell you the truth, I’m having trouble getting a sense of what this city is all about. In Jerusalem, you could tell by the way people dressed, the old Jerusalem stone, and the quaint, peaceful atmosphere that it was an ancient city with religious roots. Although my impression of Jerusalem became more nuanced, my affection for it’s ambiance never faded. As we walked the streets of Tel Aviv, I found myself thinking, “What is this city?” It seemed to be very eclectic, grabbing bits and pieces of other cultures to create something new. Interestingly enough, this idea of eclecticism came up quite a bit in our morning tour of the city.

Our tour guide took us down one of Tel Aviv’s tree-lined boulevard’s to the Shalom Center. There we got to learn about how Tel Aviv was founded. Wealthy Jews left Jaffa in order to design a new Jewish city nearby. What started out as a small village has spread into the metropolis which is now Tel Aviv. I found it interesting that in the original design for their city, the founders did not make the center of town a place of prayer or religious observance, but rather a secular-style Hebrew-speaking school. I think that this is an excellent example of how Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are different. The deeply religious population of Jerusalem places so much emphasis on the Old City and its Holy Sites, whereas the founders of Tel Aviv wanted the emphasis to be placed on higher education and the formation of a Hebrew-Jewish national identity. This vision has resulted in the hip, trendy city we know today.
As we walked down the boulevard, our guide taught us about the architectural styles that dominate Tel Aviv. We saw a multitude of buildings in the International style. When Jews from the Bauhaus fled Germany to Tel Aviv in the 1930’s, they brought with them a clean, sleek building style that emphasized utility and function. Our guide pointed out how these buildings were designed to serve the individual, disregarding ornamentation. This reflects the trend of self-examination that was common among writers and artists of the first half of the twentieth century. At the same time, there were ornately decorated buildings peppered in among the International style ones. These buildings were in the eclectic style, which blends influences of many cultures to create one beautiful aesthetic.

After a bit of shopping in on Shenkin Street, our group met again at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. I was blown away by the vastness of the collection of contemporary art housed in the museum. As an art fan, I was very excited to make my way through the many exhibits the museum had to offer. Although I enjoyed Douglas Gordon’s expansive exhibit, I was most blown away by the Israeli artist Deganit Berest’s collection of works called “The Conspiracy of Nature.” If you are unfamiliar with Berest (which I was before my visit to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art), you should take the time to Google her, because my words can’t possibly do her justice. The collection featured photos, paintings, sculptures, and prints. The styles were all so different that I had to check several times that I was still looking at the work of the same artist. Even though stylistically the pieces were extremely diverse, they almost all had similar themes. Berest played with mediums by using distortion to reveal something new to the view about the subject. Whether it was highly pixelated photos or static-y paintings on canvas, Berest was constantly forcing the viewer to rethink their understanding of mediums and perception.

While I don’t really know what to think of Tel Aviv yet, I’m excited to get to know it with my friends as our trip sadly comes to a close.

Shalom,

Sarah Sullivan

SImage

Deganit Berest “Hello, First Grade: L1-3,” 2011, Tel Aviv Museum of Art

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Deganit Berest, “Sea Level: Diver #4,” 2008, Tel Aviv Museum of Art

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