As Tel Aviv awakens, artists moved by lockdown leave mark on the city
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As Tel Aviv awakens, artists moved by lockdown leave mark on the city

A May 28-30 outdoor exhibition, ‘Exit Strategies,’ brings artistic installations to walls, roofs, sidewalks and gardens

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Doron and Danielle, a couple who survived the coronavirus together, will take a ride in a rowboat on the Yarkon River as part of 'Exit Strategies,' a post-coronavirus exhibit taking place May 28-30, 2020 (Courtesy Shai Dror)
Doron and Danielle, a couple who survived the coronavirus together, will take a ride in a rowboat on the Yarkon River as part of 'Exit Strategies,' a post-coronavirus exhibit taking place May 28-30, 2020 (Courtesy Shai Dror)

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.

Daniel Landau’s light installation at Habima Square in Tel Aviv for ‘Exit Strategies’ a post-corona outdoor exhibit May 28-30, 2020 (Courtesy Daniel Landau)

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.

Musician Zeev Tene will perform with his ensemble on Tel Aviv’s rooftops in ‘Exit Strategies,’ an outdoor exhibition for the city’s artists, May 28-30, 2020 (Courtesy Michal Olmert-Nichestein)

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.

Artist Dor Zelicha Levi created a video installation on a wall he sees from the window of his studio for ‘Exit Strategies,’ an outdoor exhibition in Tel Aviv, May 28-30, 2020 (Courtesy Dor Zelicha Levi)

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.

Dafna Kron, curator and artistic director of ‘Exit Strategies,’ Tel Aviv’s outdoor art exhibition running May 28-30, 2020 (Courtesy Dafna Kron)

“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.”

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