Dear Jerusalem

Dear Jerusalem,

I returned to you this past June to participate in an artistic excursion through the Judean Hills titled Going Up Jerusalem. Invited out of the blue, I joined a group of artists and philosophers on a five day hike from the progressive communal settlement of Neve Shalom, through the dusty Judean Hills, and on to Jerusalem.  The project was highly produced and well-funded, and structured to incorporate our various practices (from cooking to poetry and performance) into the days and nights of walking and camping. Organizing artist, Jerusalem-based Guy Briller had posed the question- what does it mean to retrace the ancient pilgrimage to Jerusalem today? The spirit of inquiry, even confusion pervaded the five days; we discovered a backwards question mark.

For me, the journey was completely permeated with politics and activism, perhaps too much so. I considered it a pilgrimage, but one is search of an activist community and holy creative tactics within a landscape of near ethical impossibility. But holiness is inescapable in the Holy Land and it managed to pervade the trip from the beginning (I saw three miracles with my own eyes on the journey). The email invitation, all expenses included, from Guy Briller and his collaborator Gilad Riech was exactly the unexpected gift-investment upon which spiritual excursions should depend. Going Up Jerusalem also claimed auspicious timing, arriving during the first quiet spell after nearly a year of my involvement in Occupy Wall Street;  I accepted. Yet as I have tried to write a reflection of the trip, a surprising amount of emotion clouds the lens. As an art project and as an attempt at activism it seemed to toy with false hopes and proved ill-equipped to engage structural contradictions both in Israel/Palestinian politics and within the social dimension of the project itself.  Yet, there is a soulful richness which has stayed with me, something open about Briller’s approach, making me wonder whether perhaps the nutrients take time to release. Going Up Jerusalem was a challenging experience, and ultimately, I’m pointed back to the baggage which I brought with me. Like many progressives (Jewish or not) who engage with Israel, I tugged a righteousness along with me which fell to pieces amid my own complicity and the complexity of the place.  Since then, I’ve thought about the problematics of entering a space as activist without acknowledging one’s perspective and stake in it, and so have endeavored to write a very personal contextual account of the journey. What drove me to break the boycott in the first place? What did I learn about practice on the line between cultural production and politics?  How much of this was specific to Israel, and what has culture and art-practice has to do with the activist energy now pulsating through the globe?

The speed at which news headlines and Tweets flash by, catalyzing reaction after reaction among media consumers, pundits, and activists sometimes misses the fact that politics is rooted in history- every act that seems to occur in the present arises out of a long chain of what the Buddhists call “twisted karma.” Parallel to this, my experience in Going Up Jerusalem contained traces of emotion from my first journey: a journey of conditioning and ideological challenge. I was 22 years old and made my way (via a chain of the cheapest hostels) earnestly toward you, Jerusalem, to square with my Jewish identity. My father being a Jew, my mother not (though I converted as a teen)meant that  I saw myself as half-Jewish. Though I was sucked into the special Zionist experience that is reserved for young American Jews, I went bumping up against the sides of this well-oiled machine. I tried; sticking embarrassingly earnest notes into the cracks of your Wailing Wall, cajoling God for my full seat among the Chosen. I jealously admired the brashness and strength of my uniform wearing Sabra counterparts. I briefly studied at a Yeshiva designed to ensnare the potential Baal Teshuva (Jews who returns back to Orthodox religion).  There, rabbis explained to me the precise operation required for full Tribal entry: namely, blinders to everything except for immersion in the Talmud’s 613 commandments. The payoff: an instant Jewish family and a little piece of land in the West Bank waiting with my name on it. I was shown videos detailing the nastiness of Arabs who fought to steal Holy Land from it’s natural inhabitants: Ashkenazic Jews. Luckily, as I see it now, something else in me naturally resisted.  As a recently graduated art student, I ultimately (and painfully) felt that the straight and narrow path of orthodoxy was a giant obstacle to creative freedom, and I fled the Yeshiva.  Finally I  considered joining the IDF, but when the time came to show up at the mental sanity exam they required as a first step, I balked, paranoid that I would have failed it, sensing that I likely fell just short of sanity, which was made worse by the schizophrenic pressure to choose between the logic of Zionist sanity or my own.  I moved back to the US, still inspired by Israel, but feeling a little rejected by it. When the invite came from Going Up Jerusalem, I think that deep down I had been waiting for exactly this kind of open-minded invitation back to the Holy Land.

It turned out that despite my perception of a conservative fanatic Israeli culture, I had in fact experienced a uniquely liberal period in recent times.   That Summer, the relative stability was shattered: the bloody second Intifada commenced, the following year, 9-11 shocked the US, causing a mass importation of Israeli security culture (and a trillion dollar security technology market).  Abu Ghraib bound our countries together under a single smelly hood of ethical judgement, a spiritual rock bottom in the history of the US.  Meanwhile, a giant concrete and steel wall, a behemoth of racism, hard-headedness, and stupidity in our own times, slowly rose in the Holy Land. I too had hit a wall by that point as far as my politics. I was no longer able to engage in the sort of ethical justification that many progressive American Jews attempt regarding Israel. Concerning my own country, I was slowly maturing into an activist. Parallel to this political development, I received my MFA in art, and became a professional artist in New York City.

Throughout the 2000’s, the world of visual art in New York as a whole notably did not step up to address the fact of ongoing war, post 9-11 surveillance, growing burdens of debt and inequality. In fact, mainstream art and culture mostly veered in the exact opposite direction, constantly honoring and reflecting the glow of extreme wealth. As art fairs exploded in number, art aesthetics mutated in the 2000’s. My life was influenced by this market-driven trend; I graduated from Columbia with MFA in 2004 into a rising market, exhibiting ant-war work that wouldn’t sell,[1] blaming myself for market failure, and then experiencing a shrinking of opportunities in the 2008 crash which wiped out the emergence of many emerging artists. This finally led me to where I currently am: art practices that were off the mainstream radar and freed me up to experiment more whole-heartedly with politics; this is the artist that Guy and Gilad invited to the journey.

My work with the Occupy Wall Street movement is what I think got their attention. When thousands of activists showed up near Wall Street on September 17th in response to Adbuster’s call to camp indefinitely, I was there,  all warmed up by a summer spent autonomously performing on Wall Street, donning giant coin masks and throwing hundreds of dollars of US coins on the ground in collaboration with the Aaron Burr Society (  Although I’d followed Tahrir Square and the occupation of squares in Spain, I went home on that first day mis-understanding it as a rally rather than a new culture of resistance tactics in the US. Central to this new approach was a constant suspension of disbelief: an expansion of time away from the one-day rallies and into the realm of anything-can-happen. From this new position, a cause and effect cycle began, alternatively sparked by police violence, media coverage, and a constant stream of ever-more diverse protest actions that quickly grew to an historical scale.

Artists seemed to be at the core of the Occupy Movement but art practice itself was deeply within question. From it’s initial spark by Adbuster’s magazine which occupies a place in the art and activist worlds, to the early formation of an Arts and Culture Working Group near the core of the New York General Assembly[2] to the fact that many activists in other working groups like Direct Action or Food or Facilitation were artists who were just doing something more direct, a creative identity permeated the moment and pulled many artists from their studios and onto the streets. There were signs to make, chants to create, puppets to play and rallies to join. It was even tempting for some to conceptualize the social space of Liberty Park within the recent trend of participatory art practice.

Inside the early Occupy Wall Street movement our target was the corporate rather than the public sphere, and the basic rule at first was to avoid collaboration with any organization funded by corporate money (except for the news media) which effectively ruled out pretty much any collaboration with NYC institutions. In this vein, I wrote a manifesto called Occupy Museums! [3]Accusing museums, which are 85% privately funded in New York, of selling out to the highest bidder. We marched from the park to the pavement outside of MoMA and staged an open assembly naming grievances against the museum. Around this time, Dana Yahalomi leader of a well-known Israeli social-practice art group called Public movement came briefly into the picture. While in New York for a residency and show at the New Museum, Dana proposed that OWS assemble at Union Square as an offshoot of her project, which researched protest crowds in public space. Occupiers decided to comply when she promised that this was completely separate from New Museum funding but I felt that there was little to gain by the growing movement, and much to co opt by Public Movement and the New Museum, OWS cultural capital being at its height.  At the event, the curators of the New Museum stood in the assembly, documenting the action, and the assembly itself felt anemic and art-worldy: a strange performance of politics by both cultural capitalists and some members of an actually-engaged movement.  I read a statement using the “people’s mic”[4] calling out corrupt practices of board member influence at the New Museum, a tactic of public truth-telling designed to challenge easy cooption of the event by the New Musuem. It was an uncomfortable meeting between art and politics, and a moment of extending the recent history of participatory art, which blurs the line between art and other social practices, into a growing movement.

I was less concerned about Going Up Jerusalem co-opting a political movement, how to work in Israel at all was the issue I grappled with. We would be providing a cultural service to a nation which is under boycott by artists who did not want to celebrate of support an apartheid state in any way.[5] I find this to be a compelling argument, much the same way that boycotts of South Africa in the 1980’s seemed just.  However, I tend toward engagement rather than refusal.  In fact, the reasons for political concern about participation in Going Up Jerusalem were perhaps so pronounced; torture, and disenfranchisement of Palestinian peoples so blatant that I became compelled to see what kind of culture (a culture that I also love) could exist in this painful walled-off stasis. The harsh critique of Israel in nearly every progressive circle internationally meant that going was obviously not the respectful thing to do, there was no fine line to walk; Israel was basically just an ethical wasteland to most.  But what would be possible in this wasteland, could some of the tactics learned in lower Manhattan bare fruit in the Levant? To reject the opportunity to work in Israel/Palestine would be to automatically take a higher ground which I had not earned. From Occupy Wall Street I had learned to step into the unknown, trust instincts, and suspend disbelief.  But in retrospect I took with me a little too much of the brash OWS style naïveté. This caused me to level an unexamined political critique more loudly than some of the other foreigners such as Dutch artists Bik van der Pol. I was tin-eared to the quieter strategies that a mostly progressive community of Israeli artists had adapted.

One of these artists, and the man behind the journey is Guy Briller.  It’s hard to describe Guy’s approach, but everything about his “way” seemed to be a survival strategy for living and working in a country that had turned fearful, paranoid, and overwhelmingly warlike. Guy was impossible to pin down, his verbal style is populated with questions and open sentences, always pointing to the distance where nothing is definite.  He did not strike me as the overly-strategized entities that many professional artists personify; players of Duchampian social chess. Guy struck me as possibly a real utopian, and he has a resume to prove it. He had dropped out and lived with his big family (wife and four kids) in an environmental commune in Northern Israel for years, then sold his house to buy an old camper retrofitted as an art lab and engaged in activist art and joined the tent protest movement in Israel. At the end of the trip, the group had come upon a little outdoor installation in a park left years before by Briller who had camped out in an off-the-radar gardening project for weeks. For Going Up Jerusalem, Guy and his accomplice Gilad Reich had assembled an uncommon group of people that included a Palestinian DJ, a food guru, an architect, an actor who walked with a donkey, a famous travel writer, a well known Dutch artist couple, poets, activists, and a brilliant cross dressing journalist for a five day hike through the hills, and  I came to feel that assembling a utopian art-tribe to form the kernel of a new utopian culture in the new era of global uprisings for justice, might be Guy’s ultimate intention.

Walking through the Judean hills together, there were moments that felt distinctly biblical. It appeared that the landscape we weaved through had changed little since the days of Kind David, and the flowing white kafiyahs we were given to wear (printed with a strangely militaristic Going Up logo) created a convincingly old-testament panorama.  However, this image shifted if you looked at it carefully. we learned from our guide, a knowledgeable young park ranger who lives in a kibbutz near Jerusalem, that all the pine trees populating the landscape were imported from Eastern Europe by 20th century Zionists and planted as a land-claiming tactic, to block out the local shepherds from grazing their animals on traditional lands. Every biblical-seeming detail of the trip was undercut in some way: when we arrived on a mountaintop, a performance artist directed the sacrifice of Isaac substituting Abu-Sabr (“father of patience”) the white donkey, for Abraham while a woman donned multi-colored body paint climbed a tree to portray the angel of the Lord. Yet despite all this post-modern skepticism, three miracles managed to occur on the journey. After walking, we would arrive in camp and make a fire at night. On one of the last nights I was standing near the fire in deep conversation with travel writer Yossi Ghinsberg. The smoke blew in our direction, causing us to move. Each time we would move, the smoke would follow us, and we thusly circumambulated the fire seven time.  This was the first miracle on a strange trip of miracles and unanswerable questions in heady times.

The mass protest movement in Israel which proceeded Occupy Wall Street by a season, the tent movement, bumped up against the utopian space of our journey at one point, causing great elation and strain within our group. A year after the huge protests against economic injustice in Tel Aviv where millions marched on the street, the crowds flared back up all of a sudden, the leader Daphne Leaf was arrested and beaten, the video of this went viral and it sparked a mass rally the next day. We heard the news from our quiet camp in the hills, and some of us immediately bolted for Tel Aviv.  As a kind of OWS representative, I felt the need to go along, and was perhaps expected to do so, and we packed into two cars (not big enough for the whole group to join, which ended up being a real sore point) and spent the evening running in free crowds around the city, shutting down streets stranding cars and busses amid the throng, banging on bank windows. Late than night, we shut down the biggest freeway in Israel by simply walking onto it en masse.  We danced up the freeway, singing: this was the journey’s second miracle.

It was a little strange to engage in this OWS predecessor movement, parallel in many ways yet existing within a land with a dividing wall between a people with many rights and opportunities and another people with very few. The concrete wall seemed like an inescapable wound even if those on the Israeli side were experiencing inequality on a huge scale themselves.  Talking to organizers, it seemed that a very careful messaging strategy was in place. Any mention of Palestine and a wider Israeli public would reject the tent movement.

The tent movement was the most obvious thread of connection between the invited participants so it was strange that upon return to the camp, it became clear that many people in the group were upset by this break-away to protest in Tel Aviv.  The reactive will to join the revolutionary crowds was somehow at odds with what we were really doing Going Up to Jerusalem.  I think that this disconnect concerned the dimensions of time and scale. Movement-time can be a high-energy blitz of information, reaction, and emotion.  Being part of a huge crowd can give you extra energy you didn’t know you had. Organizing  a movement you hook into the strategic game of reaction, counter-reaction which is often quite in line with the ADHD mode of social media. Flowing with these changes and responding in real-time is a great strength of the recent movements.  But our automatic response to join the tent movement in the streets seemed to push aside a different kind of time- that of reflection, social care, and quiet community building. The time to walk slowly through the hills rather than run through the streets. I got caught because when we received the news about the protest I was actually facilitating the assembly, OWS style, and all of a sudden I chose to get up and leave in the middle of my role; an obvious disrespect to the process. This tense moment was caught on livestream, which was streaming the entire trip.

Jerusalem Season of Culture funded and produced this project (Itay Mautner served as Artistic Director) and much of the tension in Going Up that I experienced, depended on the word “culture.”  Like a reality TV show that positions a group of strangers on an island, the participants had to navigate conflicts within our approaches and quickly set up a workable culture together seemed like the goal. Most of the participants were Israeli, but Guy and Gilad had designed a demanding structure of daily walking, presenting, and assembling that broke through comfort zones and the nightly assembly was the most raw part of this experiment.  In the course of the trip, I was asked to facilitate the assembly because of my experience with Occupy, and when I tried to impose canned OWS culture on the group with all the accompanying hand gestures and horizontal philosophy, I was met with great resistance. Although people were good sports about it at first, wiggling their fingers for consensus, Israeli culture parted ways with Occupy on a few points. Even Israeli activists seemed to prefer strong leadership, a fact reflected in the prominence of a single guru-like leader of the tent movement, Daphne Leaf. During my temporary and rather  unskillful stint as facilitator of the assembly, I was challenged for leadership by a number of Jewish males, reminding me that the country was run by a politically competitive model of called the Knesset.  However, while Israelis have the international reputation as often arrogant, competitive, and crude, I came to understand that my Holy Land collaborators operated with a kind of sensitivity I was unused to in New York. The way that little collaborations sprouted here and there on the journey and participants such as Rafram Chaddad offered performance and culinary delights reminded me that among the Jewish part of the country Israel/Palesine related to itself like a big family, and a sense of acceptance and care for one another, ran under the surface. This was most easily felt in informal conversations and at night when nearly everyone seemed to break out a musical instrument at one point or another, creating a musical Hebrew campfire. It was also felt by the acceptance and respect for a settler, Porat Salomon, with divergent politics, into the group. I also kept thinking about how most of the Israelis had either gone through the military experience, or, as I later found out, the culturally shameful process of military prison or somehow ducking service.

I found that Going Up did have one clear structural flaw, which was especially strange in light of its relationship to activism, and that was its double class system. There were two groups who went up to Jerusalem in parallel: one was us invited pilgrims, the other was a large hired support structure team consisting of logistics specialists, cooks, camp equipment organizers, a documentation team, a man who towed a large bathroom and shower unit. This organization was so highly detailed, and well run, that I attributed it’s efficiency to the fact that nearly everyone had served in the military.  Each day we arrived at a new location with a camp waiting for us, the meals prepared by a woman and her daughters were consistently delicious and healthy. An area with mattresses and a sun shade was always laid out for our assembly. This put us invited cultural pilgrims in a forced position of constant leisure, and leveled a certain pressure on us to fill time with deep musings and cohering as a group or perform for the omnipresent cameras. But grounded necessity was lacking from our role. When we invited the staff to the assemblies, they were often too busy, having important work to complete… for our sake. If we had spend half the day cooking together and setting up the camp without distinctions between the two class-groups, the experience would have likely gelled around these mundane yet essential activities, making us feel less artificially framed as “culture-makers.”

Movement politics within cultural environments seems to be a recent trend in the arts.  On the same trip away from the US, I had participated in the Berlin Biennale, a radical attempt by curators to bridge politics with culture. Activists from the Occupy and M15 movements all over the globe had been invited to “occupy” the KW building. This at first proved disastrous as Berlin-based activists created within the institution an Occupy-style camp with all the expected protest slogans and aesthetics. Viewers viewed the activists themselves, repositioned as zoo animals, engaged in meetings in the center of the space. When I arrived with Occupy Museums from New York (11 of us came) halfway through, we felt that the movement was actually being occupied by the institution, rendering politics absurd and we began working to change that.

But paradoxically, it was much rougher going in the center (Mitte) of Berlin than way out in the Judean Hills.  The rougher experience of sleeping on the museum floor and cooking in a makeshift kitchen with dumpstered food created a measure of solidarity among some of us, heightening the energy.  And finally we were able to challenge the curators Joanna Warsa and Artur Zmijewsjki who struck a Kurtz-like figure in complete (and incommunicative) control of the aestheticized  frame in which we found ourselves.  We demanded that they step back from their role; it wasn’t appropriate to curate a movement.[6]  They accepted, and thus ensued a chaotic horizontalization of the Biennial where the assembly would run the whole Biennale space and community[7] which though not exactly successful was in the end a heady, high energy and a growing experience for all involved (though I think a confusing one for the audience and critics who had no way of knowing what was going on since little of it was outwardly visible).  The horizontal process at the Berlin Biennale did lead to an increase in the wages of the museum guards who had joined our assembly, and left some of us with the feeling that a cultural development had occurred and that we were able to empower ourselves.  We found no such opportunity for empowerment (and catharsis) on the way to Jerusalem.

Yet there was a particular and definite trajectory to Going Up Jerusalem.  We were walking toward the Hold Land- the miles of dirt roads being the most rewarding part of the journey, also the part that made us work, and where we talked the most comfortably, and felt the most authentic. As we finally neared Jerusalem, the group process of the assemblies had broken down, and tension seemed to rise. Near the city limit.  We had a combative discussion under an olive tree about how to enter the city as a group, whether we were in fact a group at all. What were we entering anyway, what had Israel become? I provocatively wondered out loud whether it was necessary to preserve the Jewish anyway. The heaviness of the idea of Jerusalem was punishing us, Abu Sabr, the white donkey that the actor Lavi Zytner had brought along refused to walk ahead, assembly leaders were locked in a power struggle, and the group was clearly not cohering. Because of this, it seemed, we had somehow failed in our task.

It came down to this: We could not agree, and the last day of the journey Guy Briller proposed in the assembly that each would decide their own final destination for themselves or in small groups. Ideas were solicited and I added one: to end it at the Apartheid Wall. Other proposals were a guided tour through the old city led by the impressively knowledgeable journalist Yuval Ben Ami who was courageously dressed in exquisite drag. The travel writer, tent enthusiast and spiritual adventurer Yossi Ghinsberg offered to led another small group to eat the best humus stand in all of the Holy Land.

Our small “Wall” group packed into a car headed east toward the Wall at Abu Dis. We were a diverse crew: Etai Darway, an African-Israeli DJ who grew up as part of the Hebrew Isrealite community in Damona, Israel, a back-to-the-Holy Land movement started by African Americans in the 1970’s who, it appeared from his explanation and pictures, live a life of unique aesthetics and soul music that is completely disconnected to the rest of Israeli culture. Etai lives in Tel Aviv had never actually seen the wall. Also, among us was the photographer Yuval Yairi, the poet and musician Avner Amit with whom I had written a collaborative poem addressed to the Wall, and finally an settler named Porat Salomon, a soft spoken artist and father who espoused a politics that was critical of the wall, but for the opposite reason than I am: so that Jews could come to control all of the Holy Land, devoid of territorial lines.

When we pulled up to the imposing concrete 30 foot high wall that cuts off a neighborhood in East Jerusalem, we proceeded with a series of spontaneous rituals.  Avner stood up on an electrical box and read his collective poem to the wall while we blew smoke and fanned the concrete. Then Porat wanted to be hoisted high up to write something (Abu Dis is covered in graffiti slogans), and he stood on our shoulders scribbling a biblical quote in Hebrew whose meaning I forget. Ettai drew a doorway and key with a black marker, a reference to Alice and Wonderland and a double escape from the situation (the doorway and the fantasy) which accurately addresses a political situation that requires at least two levels of escape. Israel: a Holy Land where the Holiest site is a Wailing Wall, which is now cut in two by an Apartheid wall, it’s a poetic conundrum. But at least we had made it to the Wall itself, ending our journey at a site of trauma, addressing the un-addressable, touched the concrete, blowing smoke at the thing that blocked even our mental ability to imagine a space for justice. Among the graffiti, we found a small graffiti written by Guy a year before, another key into the karma of the project.

Back in Berlin, I had found a key to unlock at least one actual doorway through the wall.  It was literally key; a giant welded steel key-sculpture which had been plucked from the archway over Ayda Camp (meaning “key”) near Bethlehem, and brought across checkpoints and water to the courtyard of the KW building in Berlin in an expensive gesture by Warsza and Zmijewski. In Berlin, I met a member of the Palestinian youth Parliament, Habshie, involved in the Key of Return project, who invited me to his home in Ayda camp. When Going Up ended, I took a bus to Ayda camp where he showed me around. I met a man who seemed to be a local leader of the Fatah movement who gave me a satellite map of Israel detailing the exact territory captured by the wall. We drove around Bethlehem together, looking at one site where the IDF was in the process of building the wall in a convoluted shape around the house of a single Palestinian family whose house stood on a cliff outside the Wall. The cement would block off his beautiful view of a valley, a settlement in the distance, and distant groves of olive trees, which had been farmed by the displaced people in Ayda camp for generations and were now off-limits. It was obvious that the wall would become his prison, and this man would eventually leave.

“The military builds a meandering concrete wall around a single house in a beautiful landscape” sounds like one of the theorums proposed by Allan Kaprow in the 1960’s that proves reality is more far-out than art can ever be.  The surreal air of political unreality in the Holy Land was a crippling challenge to my identity as an artist activist, it left me deeply confused, and respectful of local artists whether Israeli or Palestinian, who can find effective strategies. Briller’s project seemed to meet this reality on the surreal plane, it seemed to be a container for group potential, but while I came to do something, nothing would be achieved except walking together through dusty hills, arguing, and getting to know one another (a few of the Israelis have come through New York as new friends since).  But during the experience, the it was a journey of not-knowing. Bik van der Pol responded near the end with a single image that had the whole group assembling into the shape of a backwards question-mark and was completely appropriate.

I was in Ayda camp in Palestine, and would leave the next day.  Riding the bus back to Jerusalem, I realized quite a bit later that my wallet was missing. These words rung in my head- “I left my wallet on the Palestinian bus.” Which seemed like another way of saying that I would never see my wallet or identity and credit cards in it again, maybe I would not be able to get on my plane to the US, perhaps I ought to contact the Homeland Security Department immediately. It was the last bus of the night from Bethlehem, and I walked around near Damascus Gate in a daze.  Finally another bus pulled up.  I attempted to communicate with the Palestinian driver who seemed like a nice fellow, smoking and wanting to help, but he only spoke Hebrew and Arabic. I called up Noam Kuzar, the producer of Going Up Jerusalem who is a logistics genius.  He and the driver spoke in Hebrew.  Soon I was in the bus driver’s small sedan, driving near the Wall at Abu Dis into East Jerusalem to the house of the other bus driver who handed me my wallet: the third miracle.

All the money was still in it, thank you.


Noah Fischer



[1] Rhetoric Machine exhibited in 2006 at the Oliver Kamm Gallery


[3] (this action immediately became a direct action group of which I am a member).

[4] the amplification tactic where the crowd repeats a speaker’s words line by line since powered amplification was not permitted at Liberty Park.





Haaretz: Go Because Everyone is Running

(google translated from Hebrew)

On Sunday evening in the forest of Amminadab, was the artist and culinary custard Hadad above the silver tray on which were placed pieces of lamb, coarse bulgur, chopped mint and preserved lemon (or as he explained to guests out to Israel, occupied lemon). He mixed all the ingredients slowly.Haddad was in the midst of slow cooking workshop he gave a group of artists, curators, scholars and activists, who gathered on Thursday last week at the edge of Tel Aviv for a march to the capital a week old.

The purpose of the trip, which inaugurated the cultural season of Jerusalem, was to create a new space of time and place in which to develop a bush pilot, a culture of walking and meeting the people whose world does not necessarily allow them to meetings like this – slow encounters.

But the day after the date of departure, was arrested in Tel Aviv Daphne Leaf and social protest was sparked in March many tried to start. Arrest led to the organization, and organization led to a spontaneous demonstration on Saturday, during which police detained dozens of protesters, some violence. Among the immigrants went to Jerusalem and several activists from Israel in protest of the prominent social activists in the United States, artist Noah Fischer. After hesitating for a moment, they decided to turn back and join the protesters in Tel Aviv. Thus, coincidence or not, a member of one of the leaders of Wall Street Occupy the beginning of Israeli protests season.

Participants walk to Jerusalem. Photo: Ilya Melnikov

“I was impressed by the demonstration in Tel Aviv last weekend. Were there higher energies, more people Msharicho and the demonstration is not used by the rules – it’s always a good way to start a demonstration,” said Fisher told Haaretz “, as he sat exhausted on a mattress in the forest after drying another long, hot day journey. “People have crossed the lines invisible divide the space city, they entered the bank and got on the freeway, and I see this sign of protest has great power. We went on the road, even started to run towards Jerusalem, and in contrast to the demonstration was in New York, where we tried to block the Brooklyn Bridge and arrested more than 700 people, was here a very good sense of possibility to demonstrate “.

“I think it would be very difficult to stop the ball now,” added Fisher. “Once you feel the freedom and power and begin to feel the options open, very difficult to stop the activity. It felt like a crazy dream – come to Israel and be a demonstration. Active movement which I completely shattered all my plans for my life,” he said.

Fisher, 35, raised and educated in a Buddhist monastery in San Francisco. His father, Norman Fischer, is a Jewish rabbi – a Buddhist bell.His mother is not Jewish. Early 2000s came to Fisher, then a young man of 23, to find himself, as he describes, in Israel. “I came to Israel is a Jewish young man and very well trying to understand something about the meaning of life. One of the ways that were open to boys as I was coming here, to join the team, and get a piece of land in the West Bank. Promised me something very tempting, but in the end I said it did not. The day after I left the second intifada broke out. ” He also stressed during his visit to present it violates cultural boycott of Israel, a fact that he has mixed feelings about it: “Since the beginning of the protest I feel that everything is in question, including the perception of Israel, and I try during my visit to see all sides of the fence and cross the dividing lines as much as possible”

Noah Fischer to Jerusalem

Noah Fischer to Jerusalem. Photo: Ilya Melnikov

“This is a strange time, you can not talk more black and white. Facebook, for example, is a very effective protest movements, but also a way to extract personal information about individuals for marketing and selling and this is a way of controlling where your brain was directed perhaps daydreaming,” he says.

When Fischer finished a master’s degree in art at Columbia University in 2004, the art market was at its height. Artists broke sales records, Chinese collectors buy art in wholesale lots and new galleries have taken over key areas. But the art market also suffered a severe blow with the economic crisis beginning in 2008, as Fisher. He says: “I attended public school and was on track for success, and Cshsok collapsed, I was very disturbed about my role as an artist. I was exhausted and I have worked with business people who wanted to work with them. Then I realized I wanted to make art for money, but I do not want to stream it back the art world, but to bring her out. ”

Way to the heart of protest began in the summer of 2011, Fisher was on Wall Street with a mask in the form of American currency (over) the face and threw hundreds of dollars to the street. Fisher and other activists managed to persuade people to donate money Bkixtartr (a common method for raising money online), designed to be discarded. They wanted to use the most sacred commodity in the United States and empty it of content.

This marked the young artist’s way of life very different to the route he had dreamed about during his studies. At a later stage of the protest Fisher also founded the group “Conquer the museums”, fighting injustice in the art world.

Joining the campaign connects, he says, a sense that capitalism forces us to practice fast and linear thinking – as a limit. This is also why this protest claim that the requirements are clear.

“The question ‘What do you want?’ Came from a bed of politicians to testify on what they want and nourish their own desires into the existing system. People have trouble understanding the movement of social protest world is the movement of a new generation and we decided not to submit to the dictates of the media and politics. Not impose limits on the movement, “he says.

The bubble is the problem

Movement action produces artistic and cultural discourse on borders and red lines. Artistic act of walking is done today by a number of known artists in the world where, Francis Alÿs, Shilpa Gupta, Matthew Buckingham and director Werner Herzog. Last year also took place in the country, sponsored by the Haifa Museum, “Jane’s Walks” – walks around the city in memory of Jane Jacobs, one of the leading female thinkers on urban thinking. But walking is not only action that investigates space, it also becomes almost inevitable, slowly.

“One of the things that live neo – liberal offer is on a tight schedule,” says Fisher. “City living ensures you always have to do and that produces a certain perception of our time. Also demonstrations there is a sense of urgency, but walking is not urgent and lets things develop organically. The surest way not to change anything is to decide on jurisdiction specific and then consume the media backing up your perspective and surround yourself with people who think like you. If you found your bubble, you can be sure that you are the problem “.

Fisher said that “what happens in this meeting of the group of people in that particular is different from, and it is similar to what happened in Occupy Wall Street. There were democrats, anarchists and even members of Ron Paul. Made sure there would be room for everyone. Also have here is a religious, artists Tel springs, fighters combat the former, Arabs, activists and journalists, and we have conversations in a very sincere and surprising. was here a guy who talked about things he did during his military service in Hebron. When I asked him if he did something unethical, he replied without hesitation, yes. such person I’m not used to meet, and such person, he did the things I and other visitors can learn a lot “.

Like the slow cooking movement that promotes Hadad, also walking produces a different ratio and even the target environment, and places emphasis on quality. “The slowdown is at least an interesting experiment,” Fischer said with a smile. “When I return to New York, will come with new questions about my life and my activism – through activism may be slower.”



Going Up Jerusalem


In late June, I participated in a project oranized by Jerusalem- based artist Guy Briller called Going up: Jerusalem.  This was a creative act by a group of artists, social activists and intellectuals who made collective pilgrimage to Jerusalem in pursuit of an alternative reality. Inspired by the recent spate of social protests in Israel and abroad, and focusing on the question of what social and cultural ideals should shape our world today, the participants walked to Jerusalem over five days during which they created, conversed and most of all shared in a wholly unique experience.

For my participation in this open-ended project, I decided to wear a penny mask during much of the hike (a mask which I had often work in Occupy Wall Street protests).  The copper coin, marked by the visage of Abraham Lincoln, took on a new meaning in the Judean Hills: I became Abraham the first Jewish Patriarch, interacting with the other artists and poets and passersby in a series of spontaneous micro-performances as seen here. As the journey unfolded, I realized that my goal was not the holy sites of Jerusalem but rather the separation wall that divides Israeli and Palesinian occupied lands.  On the last day, I travelled to Adu Dis in Easter Jerusalem with a few of my fellow hikers and we enacted a series of poetic rituals to the Wall, marking the end of the pilgrimage- a forced stopping point, a barrier and a question mark.

Going up: Jerusalem is a direct continuation of a work by the artists Guy Briller, Ronen Idelman and Yonatan Amir (in the framework of the 2011 Jerusalem Season of Culture) and it represents a courageous and highly entertaining attempt to examine the current state of Israeli society through art and communal introspection.

Link to article in Haaretz (google translate)

When: June 21-28, 2012

Where: From Neve Shalom to the Rose Garden opposite the Knesset

Project Creator and Director: Guy Briller

Co-Artistic Directors: Gilad Reich and Guy Briller

Production: Noam Kuzar

Artistic Director, The Jerusalem Season of Culture: Itay Mautner