At historic Jerusalem hospital, art festival exhibit focuses on cries for help

The annual Manofim event celebrating capital’s contemporary artists opens October 29 with ‘Nurse, Nurse’

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

From the exhibit 'Nurse, Nurse' at the Manofim art festival opening October 29, 2019, at Bikur Cholim Hospital in Jerusalem (Courtesy Tzadok Basan/Yad Ben Tzvi Collection)
From the exhibit 'Nurse, Nurse' at the Manofim art festival opening October 29, 2019, at Bikur Cholim Hospital in Jerusalem (Courtesy Tzadok Basan/Yad Ben Tzvi Collection)

It’s something of a time warp to enter Bikur Cholim, a historic hospital now serving as the central exhibition site for the annual Manofim-Jerusalem Contemporary Art Festival starting Tuesday.

That is the idea.

Now in its eleventh year, the festival, founded and run by local artists Lee He Shulov and Rinat Edelstein, has always focused on off-the-beaten-track sites in the city, from car garages and the relatively unfrequented Rockefeller Archaeological Museum to this year’s choice of Bikur Cholim, the downtown hospital that has been in existence since the early 19th century.

The “Nurse, Nurse” exhibit is set up throughout the main floor of one of the hospital buildings — on the walls, floors, seats and doctors’ offices, even in an unused neonatal unit.

“We’re always site-specific, so it leads us to unusual locations,” said Shulov.

The facade of Bikur Cholim Hospital when first built in 1800s (Courtesy Bikur Cholim)

The hospital, which opened in the mid-19th century, and is now at the corner of Strauss and Haneviim Streets, right off Jaffa Street, was a critical public facility for decades, often the closest location for casualties during times of war and attacks in the city.

When the hospital nearly went bankrupt in the early 2000s, it was saved by Russian tycoon Arkadi Gaydamak who then sold it to a real estate development company. The complex is currently leased to Shaare Zedek Medical Center, and while the main, historic building is deserted and rundown, another building houses birthing rooms, maternity ward and neonatal intensive care.

Bikur Cholim is still a popular site for births, some 6,000 of them a year, said Shulov, who was born there herself. But this historic edifice will ultimately be turned into a real estate venture, she noted.

Nino Biniashvilli’s ‘Zaum Attack’ at Art Cube Artist’s Studio, part of the Manofim Festival (Courtesy Nino Biniashvilli)

It was that this history that prompted the Manofim exhibit “Nurse, Nurse,” which looks at calls for help, whether medical, financial or personal.

The exhibit begins at the entrance, where a recorded blessing for health by artist Michal Helman welcomes visitors to the very “kishkes,” or interior, of the hospital, said Shulov.

The exhibit is spread out over the first floor, which will be populated by Manofim visitors as well as hospital patients during the two months that the artworks are in place. (The Bikur Cholim exhibit closes December 27.)

The artworks include videos along the walls by Aya Ben Ron and Karam Natour, a photo exhibit created by Yuri Kuper from the archival collection at Yad Ben Zvi, and installations scattered in the hallways.

Ran Slapak’s ceramic mattress, casually leaned against a Bikur Cholim wall in the Manofim exhibit ‘Nurse, Nurse,’ (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

Artist Ran Slapak created a white ceramic mattress that is casually leaned against a wall, with a slight impression along its length, representing the many patients whohave lain here in the hospital.

“It captures all the people who have slept on this mattress, and all their germs,” said Shulov. “It also refers to all those stories of people who sleep in beds in the hospital hallway” when the hospital is overcrowded.

There are works by Gideon Gechtman, who died in 2008 and is known for his art that dialogues with death. His “Nurse, Nurse” works include installations that reflect on hospital life as well as on his son, Yotam, who died in his twenties from a chronic illness.

Nelly Agassi animated architectural drawings that ended up looking much like a woman’s reproductive organs, placing them on four slow-moving video screens, while Moran Lee Yakir’s video shows a riveting stream of cerulean Kamil Blue cream running down the channel of two arms placed together, giving the appearance of a blue pelvis.

In one doctor’s office, artist Andi Arnovitz created light boxes painted with smears and stains, in reds, blues and purples, finding the beauty in cancer cells.

Toward the end of the exhibit, visitors enter the former neonatal unit, where video works about pressure chambers, the ritualistic spilling of mother’s milk (by Hadassa Goldvicht), and a massive incubator fill the space.

There will be guided tours of “Nurse, Nurse” with Nir Ortal, throughout the period that the exhibit is open, and on Tuesday, October 29, a 7 p.m. performance of “Rescue,” performed by Public Movement, which looks at political action in movement derived from a study of search and rescue teams in Israel and abroad.

חברי תנועה ציבורית בהכנות למופע הפתיחה

מהיום אומרים מחר! ????בזמן שאנחנו עסוקות באירגונים אחרונים לקראת פתיחת הפסטיבל מחר, תפסנו את חברי תנועה ציבורית בודקים את השטח לקראת המופע שלהם, שיעלה ל ר א ש ו נ ה בירושלים במסגרת הפסטיבל שלנו! אימאלה, מתרגשות!רוצים להיות חלק מהדבר הזה? ברור!הכרטיסים כאן >>>>

Posted by ‎מנופים-אמנות עכשווית בירושלים – Manofim‎ on Sunday, October 27, 2019

Other events at Manofim include intimate, one-on-one sessions at the Art Cube Artists’ Studio (appointments can be made via the Manofim website), one-off art events and performances, workshops for kids, a conference at the Van Leer Institute, the experimental screening space of Cinema Balash at the Cinematheque, and tours in the city.

Exhibits are on display at Bikur Cholim, Beita, HaMiffal, HaCubia, Agripas 12, The Terrace of Muslala, and other Jerusalem galleries. Manofim runs October 29 through November 2.

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