To celebrate its 120th anniversary, the National Library of Israel has launched its 12 Artists series. Throughout 2013, NLI will host 12 renowned Israeli actors, photographers, videographers, graphic artists, choreographers, and musicians at NLI. Each artist will select a specific item from among NLI's rich collections as a source of inspiration to create a new work commemorating NLI. This innovative project will serve as an opportunity to highlight NLI as a cultural and artistic hub.
Following the wide acclaim accorded the first successful event - the exhibition “Readers” by leading Israeli photographer Aliza Auerbach– NLI is launching the next segment of the series, in which Ofri Cnaani, renowned Israeli video artist and educator, will present her newly created large-scale video installation at the October 29, 2013 NLI opening.
NLI had the opportunity to speak with Ofri about her relationship with NLI and her upcoming exhibition.
NLI: Why did you agree to participate in the 12 Artists series celebrating the 120th year of NLI?
Cnaani: When I received the invitation to participate in the 12 Artists series by Ruth Calderon, former Head of the Culture and Education Division at NLI and currently a member of the Israeli Knesset, I was very excited. I have always used classical texts as the basis for my work, most recently in my video installation called Sota and in my 7 Screen Video Adaptation of Haydn's music that incorporated the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I always research and collect images and texts and incorporate them into my work – but the rare opportunity to come to NLI and work with the original texts of great minds like Martin Buber, Gershom Scholem and Else Lasker-Schuler, is something that I had to be a part of.
NLI: As part of the series, participating artists are asked to visit NLI and choose a specific work as inspiration for their new creation. What did you choose and why?
Cnaani: Besides the item itself, the physical location of the installation is also an integral part of my creation. Parallel to my selection of the archives of famous 20th century German Jewish author and poet Else Lasker-Schuler, which is permanently housed at the library, as my source of inspiration, I chose the large bank of windows at the entrance to the library building as my canvas for projection of the installation. The architecture and environment are integral to properly conveying my message.
NLI: Why Lasker-Schuler? What can the visitors to NLI expect to see?
Cnaani: Else Lasker-Schulerwas a Jewish German poet and playwright famous for her bohemian lifestyle in Berlin. She was one of the few women affiliated with the Expressionist movement. Lasker-Schuler fled Nazi Germany in 1939, and lived out the rest of her life in Jerusalem, but she was never comfortable with her adopted home. She was drawn to the Orient, and its motifs are heavily present in her works, especially the drawings, but she never learned to speak Hebrew or felt that she was understood or recognized by her fellow Jerusalem artists. She died very sad and dejected. I was immediately drawn to her character and her works, and felt like I could express my message through features of the modern architecture of NLI.
Visitors to NLI will come upon a video projection of a white-washed wall and a figure inside (myself) etching several of Else's poems that I selected – I am etching in mirror image, so that viewers will see the letters from the outside correctly. By doing so, I am trying to communicate the struggle that Else felt between 'left to right' vs. 'right to left' or that in her soul between Jerusalem and Berlin. The projected video is longer than an hour, so those entering and exiting the library will see it in various stages of completion. Additionally, to celebrate the opening of the exhibition, NLI will hold a one-day conference to showcase the new installation and the Else Lasker-Schuler archive, in which I plan to participate.