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*The stunning photo in the header of my blog is all thanks to Ron Shoshani. Visit his facebook page for more of his amazing photographs of Tel Aviv!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Israel Museum Has a Face Lift

I just got back from an outing to the newly improved Israel Museum.  And you know what?  It looks great. 

Here's a map of the musem:

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Israel Museum Map
The museum was well-planned overall, and especially accessible to tourists from all over the world.  Nearly all audio and video was played in English with Hebrew subtitles, and all print that had to be read was available in Arabic, English, Hebrew and sometimes Russian.

My favorite sections were the parts I've circled in pink. These were the special exhibits and contemporary art exhibits that were well laid-out, well organized and offered the most bang for the buck.  It's stuff you haven't seen before, and that's what makes it special.

I don't mean to imply that their Archaeology, Modern Art and Jewish Art and Life sections, etc, are not well done.  Their collections are impressive, well-organized, and beautifully restored.  I just happen to be drawn to  eye-catching modern art that you just don't find at other museums in Israel.

My favorite temporary exhibition was "פעימות" which literally means "strokes" or "heartbeats" and was in my opinion poorly translated as "Still Moving".  Despite the poor translation, the exhibit was conceptually and aesthetically bewitching.  All of the pieces in the exhibit in one way or another played on time whether it be space time, sensory time, frozen time.

The exhibit included a small plastic baby pool filled with slowly swirling water whose swirl was regulated by three motorized pumps hidden in the bottom of the pool.  A scatter of floating ceramic blows and wine glasses sat swirling in the water, slowly moving as if together, but then delightfully chiming against one another at seemingly random moments.

Picture from :http://www.imj.org.il 

After passing the pool, we entered a series of white rooms and corridors constructed like a small house, with the walls and ceilings covered by black paper butterflies seemingly frozen in movement.  The effect was at once frightening, mesmerizing and beautiful.  The piece by the Mexican artist Carlos Amorales, is called "Black Cloud". 

Picture from: http://www.casino-luxembourg.lu/html_en/expositions/expo2008.htm

Paper Butterflies Cover the Walls and Ceiling

Another beautiful piece called "Table" by Junya Ishigami featured a long, tall table upon which trays of herbs, flowers, seeds and spices were laid out romantically, evoking what might be the kitchen of a rich and playful heiress in the south of France. At first glance, one doesn't notice that the table is slowly undulating up and down, in long smooth bounces, but as one nears, it becomes clear that the long, thin wooden plank of the table is silently moving, without disrupting one perfectly placed item.  Nearly everyone, curious as to how the table remains in continuous movement, bends down to check for a motor or spring beneath the table.  But it is the museum guard who keeps it moving: every few seconds pushing down on the thin plank of wood. 

Picture by Chiaki Hayashi

The last piece in this exhibit that really stood out was a slow motion video that played on a small television framed so as to appear as a painting or photograph.  The short, almost 4 minute film begins with about two minutes of frozen video of a pomegranate and head of lettuce hanging from a string at a window sill, just above a sliced pumpkin and zucchini.  I was sure it was some sort of digital still life.

Then, suddenly, with a "whoosh", a speeding bullet flies into the pomegranate from behind spewing juice and seeds, and rupturing its skin. I jumped despite the fact that all of this is filmed in extreme slow motion.  Every drop of juice is shown in immense detail, a violence of destruction deconstructed with the hypnotizing, slow swinging motion of the broken fruit.

So, if you are making your way to Jerusalem, DO NOT miss the new Israel Museum. It's open on Saturdays till 5:00pm (I know, I was shocked too).  If you're a student, bring your ID card- you get a few shekels off.  Oh, and did I mention, the place is HEAVILY air conditioned?!  (Huge plus!!!)

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