Oriental Bavarian- Do you Know this Woman?
Curator: Suisa Albert
31 Oct — 26 December, 2015
Haim Ben-Shitrit’s new exhibition carries on his examination of multilingualism and its ability to convey biographical collages. The exhibition consists of two video projects – “Oriental Bavarian” and “Do You Know This Woman?” “Oriental Bavarian” fuses Ben-Shitrit’s biography with that of his friend’s, Berndt Sering, an Israeli German (originally from Munich, Bavaria). It is a German, Hebrew, French and Arabic speaking, multilingual journey, an optimistically chaotic movement, depicting a personal, Middle-eastern and European-
The six chapters comprising the project, 1.Auayuni, 2.The Man and the Woman, 3.Army Reserve Duty, 4.Arabic Music, 5.Do You Know These People?, 6.Not Jewish, may each be viewed independently. They connote and give rise to an array of surprising narratives, unexpected of an encounter between an Israeli-Jew and a German. The video project “Do You Know This Woman?” paying Homage to the artist’s mother, will occasionally interfere with “Oriental Bavarian,” unexpectedly screening alongside it and disrupting the chapters. The project portrays the mother in mute delay, while sound in Egyptian, Arabic and French is introduced in several flashes.
He already slipped away from me during our shared childhood in Ir Ganim, an assortment of pretty and ugly immigrants’ neighborhoods in the south of Jerusalem. He lived with his parents in a house of a room and a half with a garden on the slope of the asbestos immigrant camp. I lived up the hill, in the residential projects that the whistle of the eastern wind turned into giant amplifiers, making the valley dance in Moroccan Arabic, second hand French, and third hand Hebrew from a Romanian doctor.
We both committed the sin of infantile shame in our mothers’ Arabic accent, or in the enormous bread crusts filled with the Shabbat’s Hamin leftovers thrown in the garbage and devoured by the street cats; the ghosts of the Palestinian village of Beit Mazmil. Later, his Egyptian mother tongue became the language of the enemy Gamal Abdel Nasser, but also the fuel of the autarkic economy of his multilingual art, which furtively slips – with the elegance of a double agent – from the comfortable path that is the story of Israeli and international art.
The redemption of Moroccan, my mother’s and his father’s tongue, was delayed and remained under the weight of the double oppression of the Pharaonic Jewish Egyptian aristocracy and the semi-proletariat of the Deer Valley. Armed with rage at his grandmother who said: “Moroccan Arabic is garbage”, he rekindled the Egyptian-Moroccan love bond of his parents; aided by the virtuous and generous mediation of the Big Moroccan Mother, Fibi Swisa, “Erev tov, asalama, baruchbabikum, welcome…” As in a multilayered abstract painting, Egyptian Arabic, Moroccan, French and Hebrew started to move his digital brush, appearing lyrically, smudged in expressive mania, tangled in fragments of stories, melting dictated biographies into a viscous green lava.
From here, as a double, triple, Babylonian-tower agent, he adds other languages to the digital palette – with the help of the core tongues of Arabic, French and Hebrew. First English, in his works “From the Street of Jerusalem to the Palaces of London,” “The Evil Bing-a-Bong,” and “Molokhiya” – projects completed at the Center for Contemporary Art in Brighton, England. And in “The English Teacher,” a work that offers healing at an English class for excelling Palestinian students in the village of Beit Safafa, to the stinging insult of a classic comedy sketch
by Shaike Ophir.
And now, under the watchful eyes of the late mother who stars in the work, “Do You Know This Woman?,” radiating, suspended and flickering in a Festival of Light in a Persian Gulf Emirate, he adds to the palette a healthy dose of German in the work “Oriental Bavarian.” Offering mutual melting of his Middle Eastern biography with the Israeli-Bavarian biography of his friend Berndt, whom circumstances led, without any affinity to Judaism, from Munich to Jerusalem.
I served and will serve during the exhibition as clay in the artist’s hand, through physical and digital presence. And like in any lab, the Golem might, hopefully, turn on his master.
He is the artist and I am the “curator” (Otser). But in fact my hands are empty; I have no treasure (otsar). The treasure is his and I am squatting in the parergon that is curating. He, taking after his parents, lives in a palace. I, after my parents, inhabit a rented room. It is I, then, who take the burden of “hospitality” here, which has been imposed on him. The Sponsors insisted that he enlist a “curator,” and so I slip in through the back door of a childhood friendship that became real through the power of guided imagination. Now I contemplate: to be a gracious host or a tyrannical squatter? I begin with the first violation of hospitality etiquette: “A guest does not bring with him another guest without permission from the host!” But I invite my guests without asking for permission; maybe they too will invite others. Let’s see when he will lose his patience. And make no mistake, all that I have told you here is true.