Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Willy Brandt Center (Jerusalem) marks International Artists Day 2020 with an on-line presentation

Nadav Cohen(Meirav Kadichecsk),Johanna Lonsky(Roberto Ferrantini),Hanno Loewy(Dietmar Walser)

Art has been an important part of the human experience for time extending beyond the reach of memory, record or tradition. The first records of the world are not written in books, rather, captured in paintings, sculptures and music that create a picture of a world lost to the past. International Artists Day was established by Chris MacClure, a Canadian artist who specializes in the style known as “Romantic Realism”.  He created this day, celebrated annually on October 25th, to bring recognition to the world of art and to celebrate all the ways that artists bring their own special view to life. It takes a special type of person to be an artist - a person who thinks outside of the box, someone who is naturally creative, often viewing things from a different perspective. The anguish and joy of the human soul are portrayed through the haunting tones of a melody, the violence and fury captured in a photograph or the serene gaze of a statue staring off into eternity.

To mark the 2020 International Artists Day, Jerusalem’s Willy Brandt Center was joined by the Austrian Cultural Forum, Tel Aviv (director: Arno Mitterdorfer). Also celebrating their joint project "Jerusalem & Europe - Visions for a World of Tomorrow", as inspired by Stefan Zweig's “The World of Yesterday”, an international on-line event was held on October 25th 2020. With the aim of highlighting the contribution culture makes to society in these challenging times, it was moderated by the WBC’s Jerusalem social art project coordinator Petra Klose. Her reading of the following passage from “The World of Yesterday” seemed especially poignant in light of today’s fraught reality: “But in the last resort, every shadow is also the child of light, and only those who have known the light and the dark, have seen war and peace, rise and fall, have truly lived their lives.”  "Jerusalem & Europe - Visions for a World of Tomorrow", a collection of essays and short stories by Israeli, Palestinian and European scholars and writers, is published under the auspices of the Willy Brandt Center and available in November, 2020. Ms. Klose explains that although originally written in four languages, the collection will, however, appear in English, its content to be read by actors. The Austrian Cultural Forum supported commissions for four Austrian authors (Tina Brauer, Anna Goldenberg, Doron Rabinwici and Julya Rabinowich). There are also contributions by Eliana Almog, Peter Münch, Viola Raheb, Nadine Sayegh and Hanno Loewy. 

Dr. Hanno Loewy - German scholar of literature and film, curator and writer, founding director of the Fritz Bauer Institute (Frankfurt am Main), today director of the Jewish Museum, (Hohenems Austria) - has been active in the project. Speaking from the South Tyrol, Italy, he read his contribution to the collection - ‘The Tale of the "Christian-Jewish Occident”’ - indeed, a profound, provocative and highly thought-provoking piece of writing. He also spoke of a recently-opened exhibition at the Jewish Museum, Hohenems - “The Last European” -  referred to by him as a “critical, pessimistic exhibition”. It looks at Jewish individuals who, in the face of the destruction of Europe and the attempted extermination of European Jews in the 20th century, crossed national and cultural borders, once again vehemently demanding the universal validity of human rights. Based on their commitment to a united and peaceful Europe, this exhibition also dares to explore the threats that are facing Europe anew. Dr. Loewy sees Hohenems, a city bordering Austria, Germany and Switzerland, a crossroads through which refugees have passed and via which people commute, as the ideal location for this exhibition.

Loewy’s presentation was followed by the premiere video recording of two movements from “Four Character Pieces” for bassoon solo (2010) by Israeli composer Sergiu Shapira (b.1931, Romania), performed by Israeli bassoonist Nadav Cohen. Prominent on the local contemporary music scene, Cohen is a founding member and producer of the Tel Aviv Wind Quintet and a member of the award-winning Meitar Ensemble, where he also functions as a faculty member of its "Tedarim" Program for Contemporary Music at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. Referring to the work as an “essay connecting two worlds”, Cohen gave expression to Shapira’s free style of writing and accessible personal musical language, music that flows naturally, unencumbered by any predetermined system of composition. Works for solo melodic instruments are generally highly individual by nature, this being no exception. In a reading that was totally engaging, stirring and personal, Cohen’s playing addressed the work’s abundance of minute details, at the same time, creating the general mood of each movement. 


Johanna Lonsky, an Austrian actress working for the BBC and ORF, in cinema as well as theatre, has appeared at the Salzburg Festival, the Josefstadt Theatre, the Vienna Volkstheater and the Berlin Freie Volksbühne, as well as in such international productions as "To the Green Fields Beyond" (director: Sam Mendes.) From the living room of home in her native Vienna, Lonsky gave a vivid and enthralling reading of “Almost Staying”, a story by Austrian author, playwright, painter and translator Julya Rabinowich (b.1970, Leningrad). The story, dealing with one woman’s trip to Jerusalem and the subject of identity, appears in the “Jerusalem and Europe - Visions for a World of Tomorrow” collection. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the performing arts, mirroring its impact across all sectors of the arts. Due to physical distancing requirements and the closure of arts venues, curtailing not only public performances but also rehearsals, many performing arts institutions are offering new (or newly-expanded) digital services. For example, the opening of “The Last European” is available for viewing on YouTube. However, Dr. Loewy also points out the importance of the museum as a living, social space, where visitors communicate with each other as they view exhibits. Nadav Cohen commented that, although you can never replace the audience in a live music situation, one needs to be creative for the sake of both artists and concert-goers, such as on-line concerts, but also outdoor performances, playing at retirement homes and as for artists to take time to prepare new and different program material. Johanna Lonsky, utilizing this problematic time to “become the best version” of herself, speaks of one of the functions of the arts as giving comfort. She reminds us that COVID-19 has plunged us all into the same situation and of how important it is for people to connect with each other. Viewing the Willy Brandt Center's event, one was reassured that the creative spirit is not easily repressed!  Petra Klose invited those of us viewing the International Artists Day meeting to join her in raising a glass to celebrate the many artists who enrich our lives.

Petra Klose (courtesy Willy Brandt Center)

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