A City Reinvents Itself Beyond Conflict





TEL AVIV — The exhibit space is set up for only one viewer, who sits with headphones in a rotating chair and watches a video that alternates between the tony Tel Aviv space outside and the gritty, honking chaos of a military checkpoint in the West Bank.

Between the harsh juxtaposition and the rotating chair, only one reaction is common: nausea. And that is the clear aim of the artist, Miri Segal, whose “Place de la Bonne Heure” is a highlight of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Biennial, a new show timed to coincide with the centennial of this capital of Israeli culture.

It is no surprise that Tel Aviv is marking its 100th birthday by inviting artists to raise uncomfortable questions about its history and identity — the first Hebrew city, the one that arose out of the emptiness of the sand dunes as an escape from the cramped and tension-filled alleyways of the next-door Arab port of Jaffa... ... While Tel Aviv today is a thrumming metropolitan area of 1.5 million with tapas bars and gay clubs and an undulating skyline of shimmering architecture, the Palestinian question is never far away. Two curators who had been scheduled to take part in the biennial, a Russian and a Slovenian, pulled out last month because of their objection to the Israeli invasion of Gaza in December and the rejection of their request that their Israeli colleagues issue a statement condemning the three-week military operation that followed. Similar controversy has dogged the Toronto International Film Festival this month. The festival, in a tribute to Tel Aviv’s 100 years, screened movies about the city and brought Israeli filmmakers to Toronto. About 1,000 artists and activists, including Alice Walker and Danny Glover, signed a letter of protest, its organizers said, contending that Tel Aviv was built on violence, ignoring the “suffering of thousands of former residents and descendants,” a reference to Palestinians who fled in the 1948 war that led to Israel’s statehood. (A letter supporting the Tel Aviv tribute was signed by several actors, including Jerry Seinfeld and Sacha Baron Cohen...


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