The term “ZUMU” is a combination of the words move and museum in Hebrew. ZUMU is a community based mobile museum traveling throughout Israel and showcasing changing exhibits that are created and curated together with the local communities. The ZUMU mission statement as written on their Facebook page is quite simple: art is for everyone and it can and should be a common language to lead social change. And if the issue is social change, community and shared life changes, then you know I’m there…I went to ZUMU Lod to see it and understand what it’s all about and to share with you this blog post with lots and lots of pictures.
ZUMU visits towns in Israel every year and creates, together with communities and local authorities, giant exhibitions featuring dozens of artists, both locals and guests. This time, ZUMU has reached Lod following a fascinating and almost impossible journey. Despite lockdowns, the Corona Virus, ZUMU Lod 2021 gained momentum with 50 artists, 4 open air focal points, a trilingual catalog and countless preparations and expectations – the theme was the continuing past and the perfect future of Lod – wherein the present is absent. But then, less than a week before the intended opening in May 2021 – a war broke out, fighting in the south and riots and fires all over, particularly in the mixed cities, and among them, very strongly in Lod. With no choice, ZUMU Lod was eventually canceled. The opening words of the ZUMU Lod catalog, signed by the ZUMU initiators and leaders, Milana Gitzin-Adiram, Shahar Ben-Nur and Bar Yerushalmi say: “the feeling that swept us from the city was that most of the city dwellers’ personal security and most basic trust was broken. We found that the urban environment was dealing with a new reality and that most of the city denizens, of all sectors and beliefs, were uncomfortable leaving their homes and crossing the threshold between the private and the public.” As you may have gathered, if I have the catalog it must mean that ZUMU Lod did eventually take place…and so through their insight, ZUMU’s initiators and leaders led them to work on a completely new project in Lod. They found a creative solution. With great sensitivity they decided to place the art close to people’s homes. The focus was a reactionary project that attempted to create, as it says in the catalog preface: “quickly, gently and with sensitivity – new spaces for meeting and dialog. First, internal. Inside the neighborhoods themselves, among the neighbors of each building. A project that uses art as a funnel that inputs sounds and feelings and outputs new works of art that will be placed on buildings’ thresholds and remain there as permanent works.” This was the background for the community and the artists working together to realize ZUMU.
I took my family to Lod to experience this special project. We were welcomed at the entrance by two local girls who spoke both Hebrew and Arabic, we received the lovely catalog from them and the map of the thresholds. We drank some cold lemonade and began our adventure.
We went on to the thresholds and discovered works by Oren Fischer, each piece had a written explanation attached to it. We learned that Oren is a multidisciplinary artist and social activist whose figure outlines tell life stories. We thought we were coming to a place of connections, but his works which blur the line between inside and outside, opened our excursion to questions of similarities and differences, and is everything as wonderful here as purported in the explanation.
Afterwards, on the threshold of one of the homes we met Hodaya who explained Shirel Horovitz’s art, wooden boards containing different images, the boards were assembled as sliding windows on a mirror or on a concrete wall that can be opened and closed. The artists said that the feedback that they had received from conversations with the residents inspired their creativity and works of art. The imagery raises quite a few questions and it was interesting to hear the neighbors discussing with us the art upon the walls. We met Imad and Amir in the stairwell who showed us a drawing of a cat and afterwards the real cat while another Russian-speaking resident went downstairs to feed it and then they let us take pictures with their parrots.
ZUMU initiators point out that it is precisely now, after this terrible Corona year and the violent events of May 2021, that the door to the threshold of ZUMU in Lod, has finally opened for them. They are more convinced than ever that culture and art play a significant and vital role in leading the healing and recovery process that is so necessary for the city of Lod, Israeli society and the universe. We saw in our visit to Lod and going through all the various art exhibits, a sincere attempt to make many connections. On the one hand to form a connection in the metaphorical and metaphysical sense, on the other hand connections that were physical, like the conversations with the neighbors and locals. The links were seen everywhere, works such as that of Moriah Eder Plaksin, who chiseled the threshold of a stairwell like a wound in the wall and as a reminder of imperfection (as in the Jewish tradition, where you leave an unpainted rectangle when painting a wall as a reminder of the temples’ destruction and our own incompleteness). Moriah wrote in her explanation, “we have experienced a small destruction in Lod. Both a physical destruction and a destruction of hope”. Her connection was her artistic engraving together with some locals on the stairwell threshold, for example, a poem that they wrote about unrequited love, some insight into life that were engraved like the acrostic “tear” that was apparently etched there years ago, reading — know child what love does (in Hebrew)… that was kept and incorporated into the art work. A connection between the existing and the new.
Raanan Harlap’s tall piece of art, a three-dimensional ball scoring a goal was integrated into wall murals from the 1970s of two football players. Neighbors, teens and children surrounded my curious self, and again replied to questions in different ways, they particularly insisted on explaining to me that it was them who were drawn on the walls to the sound of their rolling laughter they explained that that that…and that that that…they told me that the car installation was fenced because some kids were playing there and it was dangerous, they pointed to a place where joyful music could be heard coming out of, and told me that there was a wedding taking place there right at that moment, but before I had time to harass them with further questions they left to play ball…
At another spot the art connected man to location by offering seating for neighbors and guests. Moshe Tarka used the building foundation columns to paint a tribe of fantastical figures on white metal sheets with a seat attached and used by my daughter Lior who rested while contemplating the experience.
Or Amira Fudi, the Palestinian-Israeli artist who installed a giant invitation to take a seat, have a conversation and an intercultural meeting. She created an Eastern seating arrangement in the building’s yard, these inviting looking mattresses are actually made of concrete. We were surprised. We tried to delicately sit on the mattresses without dirtying them and I even forbade everyone from stepping on them…but then we realized that these were pillows and mattresses made of concrete, symbolizing a moment frozen in time. The presence of culture and local as well as global life stories. This seating arrangement in the light and dark made me wonder is ZUMU Lod offering a chance to really connect, discuss and touch? Is this a path to a solution…I found the answers to my ponderings in the catalog, in the words of the ZUMU initiators and leaders: “we are very aware of the problems inherent in our course – they are manifold, deep and some are unsolvable – but if we only looked at all that’s difficult and not ideal – we would most likely remain tucked away in our homes and never cross our thresholds and try to make changes. Something. Sometime. Somehow.”
We then continued to see the works of Nirvana Dabbah who gave us a peek into the worlds she lives in-between. The Arab-Muslim world and the Israeli-Jewish world. The realistic patinting that she created on the building threshold, is Dabbah’s way to offer a path to human unity by describing the potential to break the impasse that our society is caught in. the explanation also stated that Dabbah draws on three sheets of plywood one scene which marks the threshold of the worlds in which she lives and shows the possibility of moving, advancing and entering the new situation.
With mixed feelings, between the impasse and the hope of entering a new situation, we continued with the threshold map and met Orit Offer, the manager of the culture department in the Lod municipality and also Hilda Kaseda, A community coordinator at the Chicago community center who guided us through the Lod ZUMU, and they brought us a second wind. So at 9pm, in the dark but enthusiastically they found a way to light up the end of this experience. They showed us around the art works seasoning their explanations with hope. For example, Ronen Sharabani’s work about the violence in Lod that inspired to him create a blocking wall of concrete, Orit got my kids going. Ronen made a wall together with the building’s residents consisting of layers of plaster and lime – the wall gives an illusion of passage between seven different spaces, with the hope of opening an optimistic horizon to reality. Orit invited us inside, walked us through it, and almost disappeared…
We then went with Hilda Kaseda to see Lahali Priling’s key work, she created wallpaper inspired by everything found in the building’s yard. She asked us what we saw in her special Mandela drawing and we found keys, cigarette butts, clothes pins, bottle caps all done in black and pink…
Orit and Hilda weren’t satisfied with just viewing the art, they took us through the back yard to see Lod’s triangle of religions, a point from which you can see in one view a synagogue, a church and a mosque. Orit told us that presently, they were all about taking care of Yigal Tumarkin’s statue, who recently passed away, the statue of peace placed close to the religious triangle and that ZUMU had inspired a lot of ‘doing’ in the municipality, which is why its full of energy and believes that change is coming. Michael Liani’s art may have inspired hope, he created sort of a temporary photographer’s studio, allowing visitors to take their pictures in front of a background of a sunset and banana tree. I photographed most of the pictures in this blog post, but this one was taken by our friend, Dror Tishler, it feels to me that despite having talked about connections before, this picture emphasizes differences. The contrast is so strong and jarring that there may be an upside-down situation here. Those of you who have visited or plan to may understand this differently…I’m waiting to hear.
Beyond all that we’ve experienced during this visit at the moving museum exhibition, we felt that all the residents that had hosted us did so gladly and even with a touch of joy, we didn’t feel like we were invading a private area or unsafe in any way, quite the opposite, we got a feeling that there was a wish for hope and change all around. It felt like they so wanted to continue to host us, to take us to see everything, like they were saying, “stay with us, we want you to listen to us”. So without a doubt, ZUMU created this feeling that the project wasn’t done, the participation of the local community continues to live on through guests coming from out of Lod, visiting and mingling with the residents. This insight was touching and maybe even a little satisfying. To sum up, I will again quote from the catalog preface where Milana, Bar and Shahar write, “we haven’t yet healed all the diseases, fixed all the problems or eradicated all the dangers lurking for Lod and Israeli society as a whole. We are still light years away – but if you now stand at the heart of Lod, on the threshold of this or that building and read these lines, despite all we’ve recently gone through – it’s a sign that there’s still hope and still a reason to keep trying.”
Despite a long photo-filled post, we don’t have everything here and I’m not sure that I was able to communicate the feeling that the ZUMU inspired, therefore for this and other reasons previously stated I highly recommend you go see the exhibition today…and here’s what the artists are saying: https://youtu.be/G2n6w8VyUuE