Friday, July 10, 2015

Tel Aviv Museum of Art is not a Museum

I recently went for the first time to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. I’d heard good things about it. I wanted to see what it held.

The collection seems large. But I didn’t see much. I spent too much time in each of the few display areas I strolled through.

I liked what I saw. I particularly liked the impressionists, the modern 20th century pieces and some Israeli and early 20th century Russian art I’d not seen before.

Then I went into a section labelled as “This Place”. I didn’t go through the entire section. But what I saw offended me.

First, the ‘art’ displayed here wasn’t exactly ‘artistic’.  It was photography—pictures. Of course, photos can be artistic. But the pictures I saw did not appear artistic. The content, camera angle, lighting and theme here didn’t strike me as ‘art’.

Second, the pictures were all about Israel. That shouldn’t have been a surprise because ‘This Place’ has a theme: Israel. Nevertheless, the focus of ‘This Place’ wasn’t Israel at all. The focus was the Arab ‘West Bank’ and, for the most part, Arabs in Israel.

I am not offended by pictures of Arabs. What offends me is telling me that this display is about Israel, but then showing me a display that is overwhelmingly Arab. That offends me because it suggests that Arabs, not Jews, are the majority in 'this place' called Israel. 

Third, once I saw the contents of these pictures, and an ‘installation’ (for lack of a more precise word) about the security wall built by Israel to protect itself against suicide bombers, I came to the disturbing conclusion that I had just been fooled. I had expected to see art. Instead, I saw anti-Israel propaganda.

Yes, there were pictures here with Jewish content. But Jews represent something like 75-80 per cent of Israel’s population. The pictures here seemed to be 80 per cent about the Arab, not the Jew.

Propaganda is (or can be) an art-form. It’s a very specific form of art. It isn’t art-for-art’s-sake. It’s art in the service of a political message.

There’s nothing wrong with a display of ‘propaganda as art’, or ‘art as propaganda’. I’ve seen such displays. But all those other displays alerted the visitor that the art presented was ‘propaganda’. Here, in Tel Aviv, I was given no such notice. When I walked into “This Place”, I expected to see what I had already seen in other displays: art.

But ‘This Place’ isn’t about art. What I saw was propaganda. I realized that the moment I understood I had been misled about the display.

You see, that’s how propaganda works. You’re not supposed to know it’s anything but truth (or, in this case, true art). You’re not supposed to be alerted to the nature of its content.

Therefore, that lack of communication wasn’t part of the art. It was part of the propaganda. With propaganda, the whole point is not to tell the visitor what s/he is about to experience. The point is, let him/her see the poverty and grimness for themselves; they will then be able to make up their own minds about how 'Israel-the-Apartheid' supposedly treats Arabs. The display isn’t about art. It’s about validating the photographer’s pre-conceived notions.

The pictures shown were not about Israel so much as they were about Arabs in Israel. But the pictures were biased. They didn’t show Arabs voting. They didn’t show Arabs shopping next to Jews or walking on Israeli streets with Jews, unmolested. They didn’t show Arabs in Israel’s Knesset, etc.

The pictures seemed universally to depict Arabs in only one type of scene. These scenes suggested deprivation, grimness and poverty. 

That’s what disturbed me. Not all Arabs in Israel live this way. Why was this all I saw?

I had been, if you will, invited to see art. But instead, I got a political ‘sales-job’. That’s called, being manipulated—which is, you should note, another hallmark of propaganda.

Make no mistake. Anything to do with Arab-Israel relations in Israel is always political. Often, it’s politically charged.

This display was, in my opinion, politically charged. It sold a single message.

I had expected ‘art’. But in place of art, I got ‘anti-Israel’ shoved into my face.

This display was as propagandistic as one could get. It was a lie disguised as art. It seemed designed to evoke sympathy for ‘poor Palestinians’ who suffer because of ‘Israeli inhumanity’.

The impact of this display is important. Israel is at war. The Arabs around us declared war against Israel in 1948 when the United Nations gave Israel its ‘birth certificate’. These Arabs have been at war against Israel ever since. They have never rescinded their declaration of war against us.

Their goal today is the same as then: kick out the damn Jews. Make a ‘Palestine’ that is all Arab, all Muslim, all the time.

This display lies about Israel. It belongs in Ramallah, where Jew-hate is au currant.

With this display, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art becomes a tool in the war to destroy Jewish Israel. It’s not a home for art. It’s a home for hate.

No comments:

Post a Comment