Critics’ Picks

Gillian Laub, Tal and Moran, May 2002, chromogenic print, 40 x 30".

New York

“Dateline Israel: New Photography and Video Art”

The Jewish Museum
1109 Fifth Avenue
March 10 - August 5

Although “Dateline Israel” covers the expected tensions between ancient religion and modern practice, the natural beauty of the landscape, and the ubiquity of borders, walls, and soldiers in daily Israeli life, the twenty-three video artists and photographers in the show also expose some startling revelations. Wim Wenders’s striking diptych presents two adjacent sites. One is an eroded sacred burial ground where it was thought that those buried would be the first to rise from the dead when the Messiah comes and that now surves as a garbage dump; the other is a neglected cemetery in Jerusalem, seen from Mount Zion. Michal Heiman tackles the difficulty in representing violence through her graphic Blood Test, 2002, digital prints of body parts culled from news archives and presented with medical, unsentimental severity. Other artists elide the problems of representation through simulation, as in Yaron Leshem’s photomontage of a fake Arab village, intended for army training. Two New York Times photographers are included, and as in Gillian Laub’s interviews with and photographs of Israeli and Arab twins, they humanize the stakes of the conflict through their portraiture. The Arab children wear sassy outfits and claim that the two sides “fight about nonsense,” while the Israeli girls look frighteningly young, swimming in their military uniforms. Responding to the question of how people live with this tragic history and uncertain future, Israeli artist Yael Bartana positions her camera above a Tel Aviv highway during the two-minute nationwide sounding of sirens used to commemorate fallen soldiers. The grainy, haunting video stretches out the moment wherein cars slow down and people emerge to stand on the highway, atomized, ghostly, then get back in and continue on.