By Gaia Regoli
On May 29th, the streets of the neighbourhood of Musrara filled up with art lovers who wished to attend the opening of Musrara Mix, a festival organized by the Naggar Multidisciplinary School of Art and Society. This is an international multidisciplinary event, supported by the Jerusalem Foundation and, this year, based around the topic of “displacement”. In a way, this idea of displacement reminds me of Heraclitus’ concept of panta rei (everything flows), usually explained with the metaphor of the river that will never remain the same as it faces a constant and fluent change, just as the person who wants to cross that same river. However, in this case, interpreting panta rei into a contemporary key would lead us to focus on a more sociological and political point of view rather than philosophical. In other words, displacement could be used as an umbrella term, in our liquid society full of inconstancy, for representing current debated topics such as migration and refugeehood. Besides, Musrara Mix perfectly represents the power of festivals as they act as educational processes for people of all ages. In particular, nowadays it is of great importance to attract especially young people in order to teach them how to appreciate and react to art so to help them to be critical about it in the future.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure to meet Dana Shahar, Director of International Relations, who gave me insights on the Musrara School. The area of Musrara has been a very sensitive and poor neighbourhood, located in between East and West Jerusalem. Hence, the Naggar Multidisciplinary School of Art and Society highly contributed to the transformation of this quartier into a modern and artistic venue with a strong focus on shared living and learning. The School offers a wide variety of choices among artistic and cultural practices, such as photography and painting classes, that each student can choose to attend. Also, students have the exciting opportunity to exhibit their artworks together with other Israeli and international artists at the Musrara Mix.
Moving on to the Musrara Mix, the event took place around the entire Musrara neighbourhood, allowing people to easily walk from one place to another to experience the art. Also, visitors could walk around while enjoying a drink or a slice of pizza (or more), as delicious food stands could be found all around the place. The Festival is an opportunity to get to know the neighbourhood and to experience the particular experimental atmosphere which emerges from this artistic environment. The main stage was in the Janet Garden, where music performances were taking place and young people were, at first, listening to the music and then, at the end of the evening, relaxing and sitting on the ground, chatting and filling the air with laughs.
For what concerns my personal experience, my first stop was at the Musrara School. Each classroom was transformed into a sort of art gallery, presenting several works by different artists. What impressed me the most is that the majority of the works of art had to do with technology, for example videos, robotic machines and VR. The first piece of art I noticed consisted in a video installation showing a bunch of pop corns jumping into a cooking pan and that had to enter a basket. However, most of them would not succeed. How do we relate this to the theme of displacement? Maybe, the collective action of the pop corns all jumping together would then lead to an individualistic success of some pop corns “migrating” to the basket. Another interesting work was an installation video focusing on a man, whose thoughts about basic things in life were presented out loud. Furthermore, virtual reality seemed to play an important role at the Festival, showing its growing popularity to the audience and inviting them to experience the virtual world. For instance, I experienced the VR project by the artist Ozan Turkkan whose aim was to transport the viewer into a parallel world populated by flying orange items with mushroom-like shapes. Also, once again in the School, one room on the second floor was almost entirely dedicated to a crab-shaped technological machine, which reminded me of the characters in Tim Burton’s stop-motion animation movie Coraline. The crab was collecting plastic waste and then throwing it to people. Finally, I can remember a video installation by Roy Menachem Markovich named the screamers which was developed on three different screens representing three people, i.e. man, old woman and child, screaming of fear and anxiety.
Musrara Mix is a wonderful event combining art, experimentation and shared living in a neighbourhood full of ambition and hope. Highly recommended.