Magazine article Artforum International

Art Focus 5: Talpiot Beit Benit Congress Centre

Magazine article Artforum International

Art Focus 5: Talpiot Beit Benit Congress Centre

Article excerpt

"What does art want? Everything. What can art do? Nothing. What does art do? Something." With an adaptation of Jean-Luc Godard's claim for the radical potential of cinema as a conceptual aegis, itself an appropriation of the Abbe Sieyes's remark in 1789 about the revolutionary necessity of the third estate, cocurators Bernard Blistene and Ami Barak organized "Art Focus 5: Can Art do More?," the latest manifestation of this (roughly) biennial contemporary art exhibition as a paradoxical set of possibilities suffused with a lingering sense of failure. Yet rather than an always-already-foreclosed cul-de-sac, the desire (indeed, the need) to believe in art's transformative power despite its anticipated impotence appeared as a productive conundrum. In other words, between the absolute poles of "everything" and "nothing," Blistene and Barak attempted to delicately and provisionally open up the space of "something." The beauty of this operation, at least in theoretical terms, is that "something" not only emerges as an uncharted modality but must remain perpetually open and undefined in order to maintain its "somethingness."

More tangibly, the very choice of venue articulated the importance of carving out a creative interstice. While the city of Jerusalem can very easily be exploited as a transcendental or messianic backdrop, Blistene and Barak resisted this temptation. Like squatters, the international and local roster of artists occupied the ground floor of an unfinished building in the industrial zone of Talpiot--four thousand square feet of space awaiting commercialization. This temporary aesthetic settlement was sponsored by the Jerusalem Foundation (in cooperation with the Ministry of Science, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Bank Leumi), in an effort to promote Israel's budding art scene. Yet the link between capitalism and art and the insertion of both central and marginal urban spaces into the processes of globalization, which may seem like truisms elsewhere, were stark moves in the local context. While the idea that the uniform character of "the global village" may be disrupted by inventive modes of multiplicity is by now de rigueur, Blistene and Barak proposed something more radical. …

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