Many major cities around the world attract immigrants seeking to change their cultural and ethnic surroundings. In the era of globalism, accessibility and migration is easier and thus more prevalent. The belief in endless possibilities and multiculturalism motivates people from all over the world to move to different cities, to explore and assimilate and to enjoy their various charms. It seems that some of them are attracted to the experience of being detached from their place of birth; they renounce the strings that attach them to their homeland and examine their feelings and options for development that become possible in the new place, where they lack all previous commitments.
Tel Aviv and Berlin, both cosmopolitan cities, belong to the group of cities that attract this type of migration. Their cafes, bars and sidewalks, their vibrant public spaces are bustling with diverse populations and cultures, some of whom are still in no-man’s-land, in between settling and departing. Immigrants in both these cities paint the town with unique qualities and various shades of openness and rejection.
In this exhibition, four artists from different creative fields relate to the complexities of immigrating to a new city, the benefits and problems associated with the phenomenon of migration to these attractive yet deceiving urban surroundings.
In a series of meetings and discussions, the participants created a platform for a joint exhibition that is to be shown in these two vibrant and similar cities: multinational, picturesque yet rugged, sexy yet miserable. The exhibition raises the issue of legal immigration to Tel Aviv and Berlin, not from a political perspective, but rather a somewhat journalistic approach that is sensitive to the various meanings and implications of displacement and enrooting.
Hadmut Bittiger, a multidisciplinary artist from Berlin, visits Israel frequently. For some time now she has focused on immigration to the city and tries to reveal the mutual feelings of migrants and local residents. Berlin is unique as it is composed of dozens of layers of different nationalities and religions; immigrants who for centuries have migrated to the city from across Europe and Asia. One in every four Berliners holds a foreign passport. How and when does such a diverse mix of people fuse to form a community?
Bittiger deals exactly with this question. She heads out on a journalistic-like voyage through Berlin and asks 20 immigrants from various nationalities: Is the city’s diversity an opportunity or does it make people move farther apart? Their responses span a wide range of sensations: from nostalgia to their homeland and national pride, admiration toward the supportive government policies and gratefulness for the opportunities they and their family member’s have been given; alongside disappointment from their failure to become accepted and integrated members of society and back to feelings of tolerance, acclimatization, delight by the multicultural environment and a hope to merge into the melting pot, along with a wish to preserve their original tradition. These answers inspired the artist to create the two works displayed in the exhibition:
Berlin – City of Diversity 1: A work composed of circles of texts from international newspaper cuttings, which simulates the map of Berlin and highlights the broad spectrum of its varied and dynamic population.
Berlin – City of Diversity 2: An audio doc-art installation comprised of the interviewee’s answers that are printed on colored ribbons attached to cellophane heads. On each head is a button that can be activated and thus the viewer can listen to the interviewee’s recorded response in his mother tongue. This is an installation with the potential of a babble of languages reverberating in the gallery space.
Nino (Hananya) Hermans photographs raise a different sensation. After many years as a photojournalist, Herman turns his camera lens toward street encounters. Dozens of photographs of scenes taken in the day and night, typical of different ethnic groups, map out southern Tel Aviv. His ability to be present together with his sensitivity and respect for the individual, allow him to create authentic and credible documentation. Herman does not distinguish between immigrants from the Israeli peripheries or from abroad – for him, the subject is passersby, mostly young, who have settled in south Tel Aviv. Most of them are searching for answers to physical, spiritual and material existential questions. For some of the people who appear in his photographs, the city is permissive, tolerant and accepting. His camera captures scenes of discussions on street corners, the atmosphere of a city in which daily life unravels in the streets and in cafes. Groups of young people collide, unite around social protests, alongside groups of loners from different areas and ages, travelling by bicycle and walking their dogs. Nino’s photographic installation is between documentary and art, and portrays the pulse of the city.
Einat Cohen, a ceramic artist who has focused for years on issues of temporality and the transition, fixes to a “conveyor“ belt a series of miniature porcelain structures, seemingly mobilizing the buildings in the Tel Aviv metropolis, like cardboard boxes. It’s as if the boxes contracted and turned the buildings into a work of art: some are anonymous and others are Tel Aviv icons with their resident’s all “packed” inside them. The familiar and functional box used for packing and storing of various objects that can be mundane or of sentimental value. In this case, the cardboard box also relates to concepts of transition, memory, nostalgia – all relevant to the topic of immigration. The delicacy and fragility of the miniature porcelain structures illustrate the loaded status of being an immigrant in the city.
Talia Tokatly chooses a personal-private approach to the theme of the exhibition . Her work is inspired by the culture of European immigrants and deals with the heritage of the family heirlooms and works of art that remained. In addition, she relates to the meaning of being an Israeli in the context of the local culture. . She unravels and reweaves these relationships in order to find the synthesis that suits her. Her artistic language is not national-political or declarative, but rather the language of research,. In the installation Leaves a Mark she assembles a puzzle of fragments.that reflect on vague signs and clues with multiple meanings and refer to multiculturalism.
The location of the Benyamini Center, in the heart of a growing and diverse immigrant population, strengthened the conviction to mount this exhibition. Walking the streets of this area, in day or night, one can sense the broad array of people that populate the neighborhood: laborers, press workers, artists gathered from all over, immigrants and travelers from around the country and from all corners of the world.