Center for Digital Art, Holon
Co-curated with Eyal Danon and Ran Kasmi Ilan
Throughout the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth, European Jewry underwent far-reaching transformations, characterized by fierce competition between national, religious, socialist, and various other ideological currents. In the end, the ideological narrative that achieved hegemonic status was that of the eastern branch of the Zionist movement, which argued that the solution for rescuing Jews from the fate of being a minority living in a hostile environment was to concentrate them in their historic homeland, where they would be the majority and enjoy their sovereignty. Furthermore, the return of Jews to their homeland, and their gathering in one particular territory rather than another, was perceived as a means for bringing them back into history: of turning them into a modern people that controls its destiny.
During the same period, a variety of suggestions for solving “the Jewish problem” emerged both within and outside the Zionist movement. Some were attempts for a territorial solution outside of Palestine, based either on the doubt regarding the possibility of establishing a state there, or on the view that Jewish existence in that part of the world would not enjoy peace and security. Other proposals suggested establishing Jewish centers within existing states, with various movements and individuals were looking into options in Africa, Alaska, South America, Australia, and elsewhere. Such proposals were discussed not as a single, absolute solution, but as a form of existence for Jews who could not find their place. Yet, with the triumph of the movement that demanded a solution in Palestine these alternatives were marginalized to the point of extinction. The memory of these alternatives, and their history, was forgotten, erased almost entirely as part of defending and validating the land of Israel as the one viable solution.
The exhibition Where to? is an attempt to reexamine ideological currents and modes of activity within the framework of the modern Jewish revolution in general, and the Zionist movement in particular, which emerged and then rejected, and to engage them in reference to contemporary Jewish existence and its problems. The point of departure for the project and the current exhibition is the similarity between questions regarding Jewish existence that emerge in the contemporary context, and those that emerged in the context of the second half of the nineteenth century. In both periods we detect a sense of anxiety. In the past, this sense arose out of the failure of Jewish emancipation, the Pogroms, and social rejection, all of which led to mass migration, alongside an incredible ferment of creative ideas and experimental, creative answers to “The Jewish Question.” A similar anxiety is felt nowadays with respect to the deadlock reached by Zionism in general and Israeli nationalism in particular—including the way nationalist and racist trends occupy an increasingly central role in Israeli society, Israel’s isolation from the international community, and its maintaining a sense of permanent threat as the only means for guaranteeing national cohesion.
Participating Artists: Effi & Amir | Yochai Avrahami & Doron Tavori | Ariella Azoulay | Ronen Eidelman & Yulie Khromchenco | Michael Blum | Yael Bartana | Joseph Otmar Hefter | Michael Zupraner | Elad Larom | Avi Pitchon | Nirit Peled & Malkit Shoshan | Chaya Ruckin | Melissa Shiff, Louis Kaplan & John Craig Freeman | Nurit Sharett
The initial, research phase took place in 2011, during which a historic-visual archive of the Jewish question was built. The materials were initially gathered in preparation for the project, and later on sorted and expanded by its different groups. The artists and researchers who took part in that phase, and who conducted research in the exhibition hall, were Yochai Avrahami and Doron Tavori, Ronen Eidelman and Guy Briller, Public Movement, Avi Pitchon, Michael Kessus Gedalyovich and Motti Mizrahi, and the team of curators.