When the coronavirus arrived in Tel Aviv, sending everyone to shelter at home, curator Dafna Kron went outside to look for pandemic-related art on the empty streets of the city.
“Everything went virtual; there were things that were cool and amazing,” said Kron. “But whenever I was outside, I was looking for artistic signs that would offer some comfort. All I could find were the handwritten signs on the front doors of shops and cafes that were like love letters to their customers.”
What Kron created out of that search for creative responses to the coronavirus is “Exit Strategies,” a citywide interdisciplinary exhibit of installations, video art, sound and light works, created by 40 artists, and on display from Thursday, May 28 through Saturday, May 30.
A website for the event includes a map of all 36 locations throughout Tel Aviv.
The works vary widely. There’s a light installation by Daniel Landau placed on one of Tel Aviv’s best-known cultural institutions, the shuttered Habima Theater.
Four artists, Yossi Mar Chaim, Shimon Levi, Yuval Maskin and Nomi Yoeli will perform a ceremony, “Older People with Underlying Conditions,” to banish the pandemic in Ginat Duvnov, while video art by Shahar Kramer will take over the dark screens in the empty Tel Aviv Cinematheque square.
There will be an online musical session online from Zeev Tane and the “I’ve Had Enough” band, as well as a rowboat on the Yarkon River for couples who survived the coronavirus together. Cartoonist Ilana Zafran will make chalk drawings of animals all along Haim and Elisha Warburg streets.
Altogether, 40 artists, including architects, designers and other creative types, are taking part in the outdoor exhibit, organized by Kron along with creative directors Merav Peretz and Renana Raz.
The initiative was created with backing from the municipality, which wanted to support its community of artists.
“I told them that we need to reclaim the public sphere,” said Kron. “As artists, we don’t have to wait for someone to allow us to act. We need to return and do what’s natural to us, as artists and as citizens. That’s activism.”
They put out a call for submissions a month ago, when Israelis were still sheltering at home, with plans for a public, outdoor yet restricted exhibition.
With a budget from the city and the Rabinovich Foundation for the Artsto pay the artists, the plan was to have artists create installations near their homes, visible and accessible to people in their neighborhoods.
Some 400 artists joined an initial Zoom meeting, and 300 submitted ideas, said Kron.
She wanted participating artists to think about what COVID-19 had done to the city and its residents, and what could be learned from it in relation to the community at large and to individuals.
“It felt very urgent and immediate,” said Kron, who gave the artists three weeks to create their installations.
During that time, rules with regard to sheltering at home shifted, allowing people to go as far as 500 meters from their home, and then beyond, as the country gradually shifted back toward its usual activities.
“Exit Strategies” can now be visited by people from all over, though city residents who want to stay close to home will find two or three installations in each area.
“It’s activities of art, I like to call it,” said Kron. “We’re offering a horizon to how the world of art can continue to create.”