Museum spaces at night can take on unusual, even ethereal, qualities, and the vast campus of the Israel Museum is primed to exploit this aura for the good of the general public, with the Contact Point event on Thursday, July 14. Opening at 20:00, the museum's halls and grounds are set to host interpretive movement, music, real time visual art, a silent dance party and interactive tours and lectures, beginning at 21:00 and continuing into the wee hours.
Contact Point has been conceived to privide an entry point for new realms of art appreciation among a broad audience. "The museum is a whole world unto itself," Nir Turk, the artistic director of Contact Point, tells GoJerusalem.com. Reaching out to young people, avant-garde seekers, museum neophytes and regulars alike is a significant challenge. "It's a wide spectrum," Turk admits, knowing that first-time visitors to the Israel Museum will rub elbows with long term fans who "all of a sudden receive all of this bonus content."
Contact Point is a featured event in the summer's Jerusalem Season of Culture, a series of exploratory cultural programs taking place at iconic Jerusalem venues. The Jerusalem Season of Culture is presented in part by the Schusterman Foundation, in cooperation with the City of Jerusalem and the Jerusalem Foundation.
Turk, 36, has drawn on his experience as a cultural event coordinator for Tel Aviv's Polish Institute to gather a wide range of artists and experiences for the Contact Point audience. He says he's most interested in "the relationships between audience and creator." This is his second year heading up Contact Point for the Israel Museum, although last year's event was dramatically smaller, having been just one component of the museum's highly anticipated grand re-opening schedule during the summer of 2010.
July 14, 2011 falls out just two nights prior to the full moon, chosen by planners to enhance "the experience of night wandering," Turk says. The museum's spaces provide opportunities unlike most venues, he adds, since at Contact Point, the quiet mixes with "places where things happen - it's very curious."
The Israel Museum may be the national trove, but one of the trademarks of the Jerusalem Season of Culture is the manner in which the series puts a spotlight on Jerusalem's vibrancy without compromising on local color. To Turk, Contact Point riffs on and encapsulates the character of the city in the way it melds together ancient artifacts, contemporary culture and objects associated with many faiths.
It's all enabled by "the wealth and breadth of the museum's collection and the city as a whole," he says. At Contact Point, liturgical poems from the Babylonian Jewish tradition are to be performed alongside re-interpretations of Sufi chants in a hall dedicated to the Holy Land. In a room with Second Temple-era artifacts and windows overlooking the Knesset, which Turk sees as a symbol of the Third Temple, museum-goers can engage in face-to-face dialogue with actual legislators, including Yossi Sarid and Dan Margalit, about the future of the commonwealth.
Elsewhere on campus, Love Stories features sets by singer-songwriters Karolina and Dikla alongside Robert Indiana's iconic AHAVA statue in the hilltop night air of the Billy Rose Art Garden, with song selections exploring family, friends and influences. "We have great love, but we exist on the strength of our small loves," Turk says.
In the Israel Museum's Upper Entrance Hall, Foreign Labor (in Hebrew, the name carries the double meaning "idolatry") features imported hired dancers frolicking around Ohad Meromi's topical statue, Boy from South Tel Aviv.
The culmination of the evening is an extraordinary silent dance party, where participants don sets of wireless headphones and create a noiseless disco under the moon and stars at the museum's Crown Plaza, the highest outdoor point on the campus. With a DJ set by 88 FM's Roni Wertheimer, the party is augmented by video projections by Ram Matza and graffiti collective Broken Fingaz retooling the works of cartoonist William Kentridge in real time.
Despite all of this post-traditional irreverence, "Museums exist to do research and preservation, and I want to be faithful to that," Turk asserts. In the established art world, he says, exhibits can draw connections between different themes and juxtapose ideas and movements, but there's little dialogue between the various sections. At Contact Point, on the other hand, Turk hopes that the public is encouraged to go with the flow and explore between many different realms. "People are going to try to understand, 'What's going on here?'"