Jerusalem is gearing up for its second annual Season of Culture. From dance to music, poetry to visual art and new media, this is one of summer's most multidimensional artistic events in Israel.
"Our curatorial directive is to explore what happens when excellent cultural content encounters Jerusalem, the most fascinating city in the world. This meeting point is highly charged, singular, and can lead to countless artistic discoveries," says artistic director Itay Mautner.
The NIS 12 million (more than $3 million) program encompasses eight main events from June through the beginning of September.
The organizers describe themselves as "a group of artists, curators, producers, directors, but most of all, dreamers with a common goal of creating unique cultural experiences in the most beautiful and complex city in the world."
Jerusalem is known for conjuring up a sense of holiness, history and wonder.
"If you're a creator or an artist and have Jerusalem as your center of inspiration, there's a lot to find there," says Mautner.
Indeed, Jerusalem-based, Welsh-born writer Matt Rees – author of Mozart's Last Aria and the acclaimed Omar Yussef Palestinian detective series – says Israel's capital city "attracts people who are creative in their thought -- even if they aren't necessarily engaged in a creative field."
This is why the summer festival is bursting with things to do from every cultural sphere.
Designer Ron Arad's monumental installation at the Israel Museum is a must-see; the Balabasta festival in Machane Yehuda market is a must-feel and intimate theater performances in private Jerusalem homes are must-participate types of events.
Productions with a Jerusalem flavor
The In-House Festival (July 3-6) brings small-scale dance, theater and music productions into private homes. This year's event focuses on original productions commissioned specifically for the festival, with artists including Micha Selektar, Emmanuela Amichai and Yael Deckelbaum in a special performance with her late father's band, The Taverners.
All productions are put through a "Jerusalem filter" before being included in the lineup, including Ron Arad’s much-anticipated art installation called “Curtain Call”.
"When you see Curtain Call in Jerusalem, it's different concept-wise, sight-wise and performance-wise than what you see in London," says Mautner. "It's unique for Jerusalem. We put the readymade shows through a Jerusalem filter and give them a Jerusalem flavor."
Ron Arad’s “Curtain Call”
Originally made for the Roundhouse cultural venue in London, “Curtain Call” is a huge, interactive movie screen made by the Israeli architect and designer Ron Arad. Built from 5,600 silicon rods suspended from an eight-meter-diameter ring, it is meant as a canvas for films, live performance and audience interaction.
Visitors to the Israel Museum garden will be able to walk around the installation, as well as inside the circle, and should be able to see the projections from every vantage point. It will be set up from mid-August to September 4.
After debuting in 2010, “Contact Point” and Balabasta quickly became summer traditions for Jerusalem residents. These two events once again return to the Season of Culture, promising new creative heights.
“Contact Point” will take place on July 12 at the Israel Museum. Leading Israeli artists -- Rona Kenan, Alex Epstein, Eran Sabag, Noam Inbar, Yoav Kutner and Benny Bashan, among others -- will create live interventions, or "contact points," with works of art on exhibit across the renovated campus of the museum. Visitors are encouraged to meander around the gardens and galleries from contact point to contact point. A “Silent Wi-Party,” right under Anish Kapoor's sculpture “Turning the World Upside Down, Jerusalem,” is set to take place throughout the wee hours.
Balabasta lights up the Jerusalem market every Monday in August
Another summer favorite is Balabasta, happening every Monday in August. Think music, art and performance in harmony with the fruits, vegetables and other offerings of the shuk (market).
“The market is the main focus of this festival and is not merely the backdrop,” says Mautner.
Expect to find jugglers alongside vegetable peddlers, temporary sculptures made out of produce crates, and paintings that were made with the different spices on sale at the market.
"Balabasta brings unexpected wonder into the myriad scents, colors, movement and rush of people: living flowers cascading from balconies, giant birds, Michael Greilsammer on a rooftop playing the violin and, just around the corner, a narrow alley becomes wide enough to embrace a world of people gathered around Nino Bitton and his band, playing music that makes your feet dance and your heart break," writes Ayelet Dekel in Midnight East.
“Sing Hallelujah! The Jerusalem Festival of Sacred Music” (September 6-7) is a 24-hour marathon featuring musicians and artists from Israel and abroad who hope to lend fresh meaning to the idea of “sanctity.”
Another event that puts the city's holiness at its center is “Going up: Jerusalem — Reality & Art Alongside Route No. 1,” described by the participating artists, social activists and intellectuals as a "collective pilgrimage to Jerusalem in pursuit of an alternative reality."
The group will walk to Jerusalem over six days from the village of Neve Shalom (between Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Jerusalem) to the Wohl Rose Garden opposite the Knesset. Artists Guy Briller, Ronen Idelman and Yonatan Amir will converse and create along the way from June 21-27, 2012. Their journey will be broadcast live over the Web, and once they arrive in Jerusalem they will set up a 24-hour tent exhibiting their works.
Season of Culture organizers held a preliminary event in May, a bi-annual International Writers' Festival at Mishkenot Sha'ananim that attracted domestic and international writers including British writer Tom Rob Smith and Algerian novelist Boualem Sansal. The official launch of David Grossman's new book, Falling out of Time, took place at the event, as well as the debut of Amos Oz's latest work.
Last year's Season of Culture attracted some 95,000 people.
"Of course we're happy that many people come but that's not how we evaluate success," says Mautner. "Some of the productions can only hold 25 people in the audience while others can hold hundreds. The numbers are less important. We're more concerned about how many creations we can bring into being, about bringing people who are not usually attracted to these types of cultural happenings to the festival."