4 YOUR SAY… 6 WHAT’S NEW
No! Thanks! JR’s Scottish readers tell us why they are breathing easier since the vote on independence
Is bigger better? Janet Levin examines the recent merger of London’s JW3 and the London Jewish Cultural Centre
Best shot Andrew Pulver reports on an Israeli football photo project
JR Interview Judi Herman speaks to Lloyd Dorfman, the man behind the National Theatre’s new space
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Mitzvah Day It’s not about the money, finds Rebecca Taylor as she explores this charity drive
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Listings Our exclusive three month guide to art, books, film, music, theatre and cultural events in the UK and beyond
Family We review The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming on our new family page
Try this! Life drawing
UK Jewish Film Festival JR rounds up the best films from this exciting annual event
Frédéric Brenner: ISRAEL UNDER THE LENS
For his latest show, This Place, photographer Frédéric Brenner asked eleven acclaimed photographers to explore Israel in all its complexities. He tells Rebecca Schischa why the results are more pertinent now than ever
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The Weinfeld Family, 2009
What do you get when you take twelve renowned photographers from around the world, send them off to one of the most complicated deep end, giving them the freedom to spend a few months in Israel and the West Bank, and using their unique perspective as artists to look beyond the headlines and hackneyed political discourse, in order to create their own poetic narratives of the place.
regions on the globe, and give them carte blanche to tell whatever story they like?
“An attempt to recontextualise Israel and the West Bank as place and metaphor,” responds French Jewish photographer Frédéric Brenner, who, back in 2002, conceived the idea for a large-scale photographic project that would become known as This Place.
This was at the time of the Second Intifada and Brenner, best known for his earlier epic 25year project Diaspora documenting Jewish life in 40 countries across the world, was affected by the reductive way the conflict was being played out in the media: “I felt like the way Israel was being portrayed needed an approach where people would be able to be exposed to the dissonance of the place.”
They did meet as a group, but only for an initial short exploratory mission during which Brenner aimed to “get them totally confused. . . I created a vacuum out of which they started to address their own questions.”
After this, they were on their own. They each spent about six months in the region over a four-year period between 2009 and 2012. Some of the artists concentrated on people, some on landscape. Renowned Czech photographer Josef Koudelka focused specifically on the separation wall that Israel has built between Israel proper and much of the West Bank, letting the starkness of the concrete barrier, with its accoutrements of messy barbed wire, checkpoints and graffiti, speak for itself. Gilles Peress chose to look at Silwan, a village outside east Jerusalem where Palestinians regularly clash with Jewish settlers, while American Wendy Ewald went for a more participatory approach, giving out
By 2007, after much mulling over his idea, Brenner, who lives between Amsterdam, New York and Israel, was ready to move forward with a group project aiming to raise questions, and avoid the usual binary and polarised discourse surrounding the Middle East. Above all, he wanted to pose a challenge: “Will people dare NOT to understand this place?”
ON THE COVER WENDY EWALD
cameras to Jews and Arabs, particularly young women, and asking them to record themselves, their families and their communities.
As for Brenner, he sees his own work in This Place as the natural continuation of his odyssey in Diaspora: “I spent 25 years questioning the very concept of diaspora and identity. Today, I’ve gone to Israel to question sovereignity.”
USA At home ... Amal, 2013
With the help of a team of prominent curators, Brenner set about choosing – and persuading – a group of stellar photographers to participate in the project – as well as going on a huge fundraising drive to cover the costs. Given that he wanted to question “the radical otherness of Israel, where everybody is the other of somebody else”, it is not surprising that he chose ‘others’, outsiders who have nothing to do with Israel or the West Bank, as participating artists.
BACKGROUND: Ewald, 63, encourages her subjects to use cameras to record themselves, and their communities and families, and to use the cameras to articulate their dreams and fantasies. SHE SAYS: “The dialogue between the photographer and subject, and inevitably the viewer, became for me the essential point of a photograph. In this project, I asked 14 groups of people from various regions and cultures to work with me to map Israel and the Occupied Territories from within.”
With a huge body of work created, This Place as a finished project comprises monographs by each of the twelve artists, some of which have already been published, including Brenner’s entitled An Archeology of Fear and Desire, an exhibition catalogue, live events and a touring exhibition that opens in Prague in October 2014.
How does the recent
Twelve photographers of eight diverse nationalities, who all work across “a very large spectrum of grammar and syntaxes”, agreed to participate, including legends of contemporary photography such as iconic Canadian artist Jeff Wall, Thomas Struth from Germany, and fellow Frenchman Gilles Peress, as well as Jungjin Lee from South Korea and the portraitist Rosalind Solomon from the US; Brenner himself also participated.
crisis in Gaza impact on Brenner and the project now that the opening exhibition is imminent?
“I could not predict...that just before the project’s launching, Israel would find itself in an unbearably complex moral situation, facing – yet again – a press that reduces complexity… to simplistic judgements, and demonstrations in Europe that fan the embers of antisemitism. From the beginning, This Place was intended not to give answers, but to spur reflection.” n
The idea was to throw the artists in at the
}See more pictures from This Place overleaf…
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ON THE COVER This Place The striking photo from Wendy Ewald is part of a groundbreaking exhibition organised by the French photographer Frédéric Brenner. Read Rebecca Schischa’s interview with him and see the pictures
18 Jewish dystopias As Howard Jacobson’s J gets Man Booker scrutiny, Ben Crowne asks why Jewish writers are drawn to writing about the future?
Laugh out loud We meet the comics at the UK’s first ever Jewish Comedy Festival at JW3
Choirboy rock Danielle Goldstein speaks to Canadian band Lakes of Canada
When Byron met Nathan David Conway uncovers a remarkable collaboration
Strings attached Malcolm Miller recommends the soaring sounds of violinist Jack Liebeck
Do mention the war German artist Anselm Kiefer is interviewed by Tim Marlow
Grand designs Monica BohmDuchen reviews the latest show on designer Abram Games
Britain’s South Africans Janet Levin investigates why this remarkable group of immigrants have made such a huge cultural, social and political impact in Britain and around the world
Secret service Denis Herbstein tells the story of the London-based Defence & Aid Fund, which helped save many ANC members, including Nelson Mandela, from the gallows
What I brought with me Janet Suzman, David Lan, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and others, tell us how their South African origin has influenced their lives
Austrian books special Andrea Reiter considers the new generation of writers.
Emigres and exiles David Herman settles down with Austria’s publishing giants and the latest on Stefan Zweig
Reviews Hilltop by Assaf Gavron; The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis; Elsewhere by Doron Rabinovici
Books in brief Books on Scots, Austrians and Algerians
58 LAST WORDS
South African Yiddish For all the bagel boys out there
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