Requiem to Harsa

Participants: Nehemia Azaz, Pnina Zamir Amir, Omri Fisher and Bar Mussan Levi, Harsa, Shani Balaga, Stav Havazelet, Noga Toren, Reut Bar Kana

Curator: Shlomit Bauman

Opening: Thursday, 12/03/20, 19:30

Closing: Saturday, 02/05/20 , 14:00

Gallery Talk: Friday, 20/03/20, 11:30

In May 2019 the Harsa factory closed and the production line was transferred to Turkey.  This was the last nail in the coffin of a process that began in the 90’s of the previous century when one after the other the ceramics factories of Lapid and Neeman closed down.

The exhibition Requiem to Harsa is a kind of tribute to the entire industry – industry that creates culture – that existed in Israel between the years 1950 – 1970 and numbered about 15 different factories.

‘Industry creates culture’ refers to all the industries that contribute to the crystallization of identity and culture of a place  From the beginning of the 1930’s ceramic factories were established in a conscious effort to create a local identity and until the 1980’s the ceramics made by the factories (Lapid, Neeman, Palkeramik, Kernat, Bror Hayil, Kadar and many others) were considered an expression of a local developing culture.

In the 1990’s, local industry was unprotected from globalization and one factory after the next closed down and the real estate became economically more valuable than the factory and its production.  The country, that at the beginning of its existence encouraged local manufacture – gave up on the industry as a cultural asset and the economic situation became a struggle for survival and froze any hope for new designs that would express the change in times. And so, these factories became a financial burden and their products outdated and irrelevant.

The products made by the Israeli ceramic factories had a unique style which in most cases turned its back on the fine European style.  The forms were mostly Modernist and geometric – a little clumsy but charming, decorated with local landscapes and coloring.

Harsa, which closed a few months ago was a unique and interesting example of connecting between a commercial production line and the creation of artistic objects made in the “ceramic art department” of the factory.  In 1955, a few years after the establishment of the factory, Nehemia Azaz created this department.  The department was active for about 10 years and was a great success on several levels: the department created an original body of work which was commercially successful in the young Israel and abroad and increased the number of employees in the factory, especially women from Beer Sheva and the surroundings, and so enabled tens of women to specialize in drawing on ceramics.

The principle introduced by Azaz was simple: the sanitary fittings loaded in the kiln took a certain volume, but the spaces between the basins and toilets could be filled by the artistic pots at no extra firing cost.
The artistic department was active for about 10 years.  In the first five years Nehemia Azaz established and managed the department. In the last 5 years the artistic director was Pnina Zamir Amir. 

Despite the relatively short period of time, the artistic department at Harsa made a big cultural contribution.  The model of cooperation between artists and industry – common in Europe – was very successful at Harsa and Azaz noted that the closing of the department was not for economic reasons but internal politics in the factory and the lack of protection from Kor – the owners of the factory.

The exhibition, Requiem to Harsa, raises questions about the relationship between industry and art in a post-industrial era, with the destruction of local ‘industry creates culture’ entirely. Was it possible to create an on-going relevant, economically, culturally viable with innovative production and an interesting symbiotic relationship between art and the production line?

The exhibition shows ceramic works made by Nehemia Azaz and Pnina Zamir Amir from the collection of Avi Hadar, together with an installation of Harsa sanitary fittings created by Omri Fisher (industrial designer) and Bar Mosan Levi (architect)  The installation is a poetic expression of sanitary fittings as well as a critical stance on the disappearance of the local production.  In addition, there are historic photographs from the ‘artistic ceramics department’ from the 1960’s and photographs of the Harsa production line taken in the last few years by students of the technology course during a tour of the factory in their studies in the Industrial Design Department of HIT – Holon Institute of Technology.

Video by Shani Balaga.

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