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Times Square

Video artwork created by Israeli students and graduates are on display on large LED screens in Manhattan’s Times Square, May 2020. 

Some 20 video artworks created by Israeli art students and graduates are currently on display on large LED screens in Manhattan’s Times Square.

The art was created in recent years by students and graduates of the department of screen-based arts at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem during the school’s four-year program. The works being displayed include second-year student’s Maya Ella’s “Non-Violent Communication” and “Walls” by Yonatan Swede, in which the artist walks the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, a historic site that was part of his childhood scenery and a sharp contrast to Manhattan’s urban landscape.

The showcase is the result of a collaboration between Bezalel Academy’s department of screen-based arts and ZAZ CORNER, a digital billboard art gallery in New York City. The artworks were curated by Lightbox, an interactive events venue in Manhattan.

Sharon Balaban, head of videography at Bezalel Academy’s screen-based arts department, told JNS that the pieces “have been selected from a perspective of the unique public space in which they are presented in and with a desire to relate to the environment that expresses the culmination of the consumerism culture.”

She added that “in a space that manifests human existence through media images of perfection, seduction and desire, the students examine the essence of that existence from a personal viewpoint.”

The artworks went on display in March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic began to affect nations globally, and were originally supposed to be presented for only three weeks. However, due to the coronavirus outbreak, they are now being displayed until the end of May.

“The COVID-19 pandemic made it clear that this is the time for digital initiatives, including screen-based art and videography,” said Balaban. “We were unsure if we should only exhibit the artworks online; however, we decided collectively if it can be done safely, then the show must go on!

“While observing art in a deserted public space is certainly surreal and unusual, it for sure was a very special scene in a historical period of time,” she continued. “We also wanted to make sure that our viewers experience the works on the ZAZ Corner screens live through social media, waiting for better days, when they can see the beautiful works of our students in their own eyes, while walking down Seventh Avenue.”

ZAZ Corner’ curator Tzili Charney told JNS, “The effect is absurdly stronger when the area is empty. When the area is busy, people don’t really pay attention. It’s more about the idea of ​​visibility in the center of the universe than the visibility itself that is not noticeable within the advertising rush.”

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