‘One Foot Planted’ opening event presents beautiful art, but problematic

The Hadassah Brandeis Institute (HBI) has promoted art relating to Jewish women for nearly 20 years on the Brandeis campus. This semester’s exhibit is a celebration of the female form and its relationship to Israel through cinematography. “One Foot Planted” is a series of videos by Israeli artists Ayelet Carmi and Meirav Heiman. The videos were a synthesized depiction of both Carmi and Heiman’s individual fascinations with the relationship between women and nature. Though I have one preoccupation with one of the artist’s presentations at the exhibition’s opening event, “One Foot Planted” is a beautiful work of video art that I recommend Brandeis students visit.

Meirav Heiman has primarily worked with the media of photography and cinematography. In her earlier works, she has photographed herself in different landscapes in a split position. The action of a split on the ground, in Heiman’s words is a, “feministic statement” about the painful relationship between the body, the land, the country and birth. Another photo series of Heiman’s depicts a variety of themed dinners with men she has gone on dates with, and people she has met online. In her collaboration with Ayelet Carmi, she continues her exploration of the body.

Carmi is a painter who has had work exhibited in her home country of Israel and abroad. She’s used oil paint and mixed media to create pieces that feel both classical and new, such as her paintings of mythical bodies using mixed-up contraptions, a theme she employs in real life with her video work. Heiman and Carmi bring unique skills and sensibilities together for this exhibition, a series of videos that synthesize the two artists beautifully.

“The Israel Trail: Procession” comprises the majority of the “One Foot Planted” exhibit. During the opening, we see at least fifty people of different body shapes, size and skin tones walking on a trail during the day. They’re mostly women, though there are a few children and elderly men. The whole group seems to represent those left out by politics or from armed conflicts. As they walk, we see the sun move, from the beginning blues to the purple hues of sunset, creating stark silhouettes of the female forms.

The parade of women traveled on a multitude of mechanisms that prevented them from touching the ground. The decision to have their models walk in a variety of difficult contraptions depicts the complicated relationship between Israeli woman and Israeli land. “The Israeli Trail: Procession” conveys the impact that conflicts and politics have on Israeli women through alluring aesthetics.

Both women have a compelling and beautiful way of displaying the female body.

Truly, without being pretentious, the art was truly breathtaking. Elements of both Carmi and Heiman’s individual art styles and inspirations were present but meshed together beautifully like all true artist collaborations should be. You can see where Carmi’s individual art style and Heiman’s mastery of performance art and cinematography combine to create the beauty of “The Israel Trail: Procession.”

Both artists gave lectures on their particular styles for the event’s opening. For Meirav Heiman’s portion, she presented an accompanying PowerPoint with slides demonstrating the progression of her art. There was a “Red Dinner” where the guests were dressed in red with red wigs, a “White Dinner” where the guests were dressed in white wearing white wigs and drinking milk. One of the themed dinners was a “Black Dinner,” where the guests were dressed in all black, had afros and were in black face.

It is important to say that this photograph is not a part of “One Foot Planted” but from one of the artist’s portfolios. It was part of the PowerPoint used for visuals during Heiman’s part of her lecture on her individual art. But it’s troubling to think that HBI staff didn’t screen this ahead of time.

It should not take away from the beauty and importance of the exhibit, and it would be a shame if it did. However, it is difficult to ignore this photo. The discomfort was an unwelcome surprise. It was displayed to a room of people at Brandeis University in the United States, there can be no veil of ignorance to hide behind. While Israel is a country without the context and history of black face, the photo was presented at an American school, to an American audience that know all too well the implications of black face. The most disheartening thing about this is the fact that it did distract from the art. I felt sad sitting in a room surrounded by beauty but unable to clear such an ugly image from my mind. It wasn’t anger or simply discomfort, it was disappointment.

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