“Eye to I,” a new exhibit at the Israel Museum, offers young museum visitors an interactive look at relationships and various ways to look people in the eye, so to speak.
The Youth Wing exhibit, which opened June 27 and will continue through next April, casts an eye on a skill set that’s particularly important in the era of texting and technology, said curator Shir Meller-Yamaguchi.
“Looking at people eye-to-eye is a special experience and is important for creating connections and for understanding one another,” said Meller-Yamaguchi. “Art allows us to reflect on our relationships and emphasize what is really important.”
The two floors of the exhibit are structured to represent the different kinds and stages of relationships, said Meller-Yamaguchi. There is a darker, slightly ominous bottom level that represents encounters with strangers, and a lighter, more colorful upper floor showing what happens when people connect deeply with one another.
The exhibit begins with a section called “Face-to-Face” and a piece by Scottish artist Gordon Douglas, with phrases splashed across a white wall, creating an opening to talk about social encounters of different kinds.
Further along the gallery is “Current Destination” by Noa Yekutieli, with side-by-side images of two embraces. The first is a silhouette formed by the image of Syrian refugees crowded on a boat seeking safety. In the second piece, arms are shown, folded in a long embrace. The figures in the two artworks are identical but alternate between black and white, conveying that sometimes people need a hug and at other times are able to offer one.
The show follows with a “Read My Face” gallery, concerning facial expressions and the use of virtual emotions such as emojis,
“In the digital age you can hide your feelings by sending a smiley face, but real feelings aren’t so simple,” said Meller-Yamaguchi.
Upstairs, viewers move into the “Close and Far” section, which illustrates how relationships are constantly being tested and moving together and apart.
A piece by Einat Amir allows the audience to become part of the artwork, with soundproof booths where participants enter in pairs and are instructed to answer increasingly personal questions. The lighting gradually becomes warmer as the questions become increasingly personal.
“It asks questions that we normally don’t ask,” said Meller-Yamaguchi. “One father said that he never had conversations like that with his daughter before.”
In “Together or Alone,” artists explore relationships with family members, which aren’t always as close as we think despite shared living quarters.
Artist Daniel Landau designed a single living room that combines the home environments of two families, one Arab and one Jewish, groups that often remain separated despite living next to one another.
Through a virtual-reality component, viewers can see within the real homes of both families and meet their members, deepening their understanding of possible encounters in today’s world.