Muza – Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv, one of Israel’s three largest and most prominent museums, presents the very first Photomenta, a large-scale photographic exhibition featuring more than 300 works by 35 photographers from 16 Mediterranean countries and territories. The exhibition is slated to open on Tuesday, September 21, and will run for a year as part of the museum’s 2021-2022 international season.
The exhibition serves as a “bridge that spans abroad and people, across borders and political conflicts,” a museum statement said, the photographs providing “a mental, artistic and narrative meeting point with the people.” others “in our neighborhood”.
The exhibition features photographers from countries such as Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Malta, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The works are centered on the idea of rhythm, a theme that refers to the meter and rhythm in music, poetry and movement.
“The choice of this theme frames each series of photographs, and the exhibition as a whole, like a form of visual poetry, which has its own rhythm. This selection of works raises the question of whether photographers from the Mediterranean basin share a unique photographic rhythm, ”Guy Raz, chief curator of photography at Muza, told NoCamels.
The term Photomenta, according to Raz, refers to a series of associations: photography, cartography, monuments, documentation, moments, mythology and the Mediterranean. “These are the underlying elements of a photographic language emerging between three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa,” said Raz, “Photomenta’s roots are thus nourished by mythological encounters in the cradle of the civilization. The Mediterranean basin, which once served as a crossroads, continues today to form a cultural bridge between East and West.
According to Raz, the Photomenta exhibition will take place every five years “to allow precise choice of subject and in-depth research”. It will also leave “enough space” for the next Photomenta, he says.
Raz tells NoCamels that he came up with the idea for Photomenta “many years ago” as a photo exhibition to connect photographers from Mediterranean countries. “The basic idea was to present at least one photographer from each of the 21 Mediterranean countries,” he explains.
When he was appointed curator of photography at the Eretz Israel Museum, he proposed the idea to the museum management and they decided it was a worthwhile project.
“Subsequently, I made a commitment to showcase the highest quality photography from each country in order to maintain exposure of the highest photographic and artistic quality,” he adds.
The effort to find photographers from countries across the Mediterranean has been a painstaking process, according to Raz. This included conversations with colleagues, locating, photographers via websites, viewing past exhibitions online, and making contact with photographers via email and Zoom until agreements could be signed and digital files on loan for production in Israel.
Fifteen of the 35 artists whose works are on display are Israeli photographers. They include photographs of Oded Balilty, the first and only Israeli photographer to receive the Pulitzer Prize for his photograph of a lone Jewish settler confronting Israeli security agents during the evacuation of a settlement outpost in the West Bank. There is also the work of Noa Ben-Nun Melamed, a photographer known for her austere black and white photographs of objects and landscapes.
The exhibition will also feature works by Dor Guez, an Israeli artist of Palestinian Christian and Tunisian Jewish descent and founder of the Palestinian Christian Archives. He is known for his “Lilies of The Field” series of photographs that examine, mimic and sometimes reproduce albums of dried flowers that were popular keepsakes for tourists and pilgrims traveling from Europe and America to the Holy Land. at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th. centuries. These were based on a study of photographs depicting these flower albums found in the archives of the American Colony in Jerusalem. The American Colony was established in Jerusalem in 1881 by members of a utopian Christian society led by Anna and Horatio Spafford.
Other photographers outside of Israel include the Moroccan Hicham Benohoud, a photographer who presents his staged and colorful series “Acrobatics” where he features Moroccan families in unconventional and humorous compositions in their own living room.
There is also the work of the Italian Laetizia Battaglia, photographer of everyday life and the Mafia in Sicily in the 70s and 80s. Her black and white documentary photography is presented for the first time in Israel. Franco-Algerian photographer Marie Huledot deals with visual family symbols of the political and aesthetic history of the tension between Africa and Europe.
Last but not least, Raed Bawayah of the Palestinian Authority presents a collection of black and white photographs of a Palestinian village where he was born and also of Europe, where he currently resides.
Raz tells NoCamels that he wants people to remember that “photography is a language of our generation, but it is also part of the history of art.”
“Visitors to the exhibition are invited to wear a metaphorical shell in their ears, to embark on a journey among its ports in a sort of odyssey, and to listen to the rhythm of Photomenta,” he adds.
The exhibit will be open to the public on the first full day of the Sukkot feast, Tuesday, September 21. The exhibition will be accompanied by special events, guided tours, lectures, Mediterranean music performances and more from 10 a.m. Entrance to the museum is free.