Presentation on theme: "Dina Merhav Memorial Monuments In Israel. Ever since the early days of human history, man had the desire to commemorate. This ancient urge to leave something."— Presentation transcript:
Ever since the early days of human history, man had the desire to commemorate. This ancient urge to leave something behind - human traces of the short existence on earth – was the main motivation of monumental works left behind by man - remains and traces, of human civilizations. Death is perceived as a mysterious, frightening entity. Coping with death is one of the reasons for creative motivation. Countless works of art have drawn their inspiration on this big mystery of life – death.
It is this primeval fear of death and coping with the world which is seen in one of the world's wonders – the Egyptian pyramids – has been for 5000 years one of the climaxes of human creation. Three giant cones, rising over the desert plain, like three manmade mountains. It is one of the significant encounters of man and nature. The pyramids, with their basic geometrical shape stand out in the plain.
Pyramids, or triangles, carry a mystic symbolic meaning, as does the Jewish Star of David – made of two interlocked triangles. The repeated use of this basic shape has a reason, whenever there is the need to translate the essence of commemoration, memory, heroism and sacrifice into a tangible shape. You can see it in Tumarkin's Holocaust and Revival memorial in Tel Aviv, or Knispel's Holocaust memorial in Haifa. Yigal Tumarkin 1975 Gershon Knispel
Dalia Meiri had also used the triangle in the Commemoration site in Kibutz Bet Zera. These manmade works, commemorating man's spirit and might, leave their great impression, overshadowing nature. Dalia Meiri 1987
All over the world, as well as in Israel, many remains of various periods are spread. They represent the ancient urge to commemorate: Burial caves, Dolmens and other types of tombs. Dolmen in Israel Dolmen in Jordan Dolmen in Ireland
Nevertheless, The important Israeli Art Historian Dr. Gideon Ofrat states that there is a difference between a tomb and a memorial, "A tombstone is a sign: Here lies … The sculpture is a symbol of emotions, of itself. A memorial is an icon. The symbolized person is present in the symbol. The memorial is the meeting point for the dead and the living on the level of nature – it marks the place and time of an event, reaching its ultimate esse on the day and time of the memorial ceremony". Man, since ancient times up to modern era, halways had a strong motivation to leave behind some traces of his existence, to commemorate his short life on earth. Various cultures have related to this fact in different manners, of which the common denominator was building one or another monument, to commemorate eternity – like a material statement in shape and substance. The important Israeli Art Historian Dr.Gideon Ofrat states that there is a difference between a tomb and a memorial, "A tombstone is a sign: A memorial sculpture is a symbol of emotions, an icon. The memorial is the meeting point for the dead and the living on the level of nature – it marks the place and time of an event, reaching its ultimate essence on the day and time of the memorial ceremony". Various cultures have related to this fact in different manners, of which the common denominator was building monuments, to commemorate eternity. Ancient Tomb in China
I chose Israeli sculptures to illustrate, different concepts of commemoration. The culture of commemoration is greatly influenced by the prevailing spirit of the period. During the thirties, as well as following the Israeli Independence War – 1948, idealization of death and its glorification, was prevalent among the Jewish population. This concept could be found in sculptures: such as Abraham Melnikov’s -The Roaring Lion in Tel Hai,1934 Batya Lishansky the memorial in Hulda, 1937. Batya Lishansky 1937Avraham Melnikov 1934
Values, such as land, work and defense, were expressed in monuments during the fifties and sixties. Typically represented in Mordhai Kafri's memorials. Danny Karavan's memorial for the defenders of the Negev (1963-1968) marks a turning point, separating the 1948 memorials from those build after the Six Days War. This is an environmental sculpture, based on primary geometrics, and its link to its surrounding is a substantial part of the concept. Karavan merged in his sculptural surrounding the blinding light, the howling winds and the scarce vegetation of the desert. Dani Karavan 1968
Karavan's sculptural surrounding erased every pre-set ideas, as well as the need for previous knowledge. Unlike the spectator's passive role in front of the 1948 memorials – here, the spectator, moving around the sculpture, creates - changing shapes and relations. The meaning of the Negev memorial, although still anchored in the War of Independence, is free of the ideological system, so unique to the Israeli society. Even since, most memorials built in Israel have been environmental sculptures, some of which clearly influenced by Karavan's concept.
Dalia Meiri's memorials are completely different from those constructed by male sculptors. Her works are low, close to the ground, in direct contact with the soil. They are not heroic, nor do they proclaim the fighters' heroism. They rather reject aggression and state their yearning for peace, harmony and peaceful landscape, which is an integral part of her work. Dalia Meiri 1977
Batya Lishansky 1900 – 1992 In her memorials, spread all over Israel, Batya Lishansky glorifies the devotion, heroism and friendship, turning them into eternal moral values. Her memorials commemorate the tormented, heroic route of the Jewish people, and express human experience, a rare combination of tenderness, strength and determination. She turns the stone into a living, lively figure, full of faith and love of mankind. She was awarded the Israel Prize on 1986. Batya Lishansky 1937
The Hulda Memorial – 1930-1937, 300x200x150 Batya Lishansky's memorial was placed in the Hulda site in 1937, following 7 years of hard, devoted work. There are substantial differences between the concepts of the two memorials, bearing their effect on the development of later memorial culture in Israel. Melnikov chose the lion as a well-known symbol of the individual's strength and dominance. Lishansky emphasizes life and work, and her figures accentuate human elements, such as support, care and above all – the love of life. Batya Lishansky 1937 Avraham Melnikov 1934
The "Roaring Lion" memorial was constructed in Tel Hai by Abraham Melnikov in 1934, in memory of Joseph Trumpeldor. Together with its pedestal the statue rises 6 meters high. It is shaped in a Monumental style, hinting somewhat at the ancient Assyrian east, which inspired art during the thirties. "The Roaring Lion" is a symbol of heroism and might, becoming more significant and mythical with time. The memorial declares: “It is good to die for one's country!“ Emphasized death. The two above mentioned memorials were the first to be built in Israel in Memory of the fallen. Avraham Melnikov 1934
In contrast to Melnikov lion’s massive stylized lines, Lishansky chose naturalist realism and romantic expressionism. These two memorials have been fighting for the priority. Tel Hai has always been a place of pilgrimage, with Trumpeldor a symbol of national heroism, where the memorial in Hulda has been a shining example for many other memorials constructed in Israel between the 1948 and 1967 wars.
Mordehai Kafri 1920-2001 The feature characterizing Kafri as both an artist and human being is the direct bond with the land, landscape and country. He was a warm, loving and empathic person, and as an artist – these features stand out in his works. The stones he worked on radiate warmth and empathy. It is, indeed, an immense human challenge of translating the loss on one hand, and the wish to commemorate on the other, into a three-dimensional tangible language; to shape emotion into mass, proportions, yet preserving its essence. "The memorial is the core of Israeli sculpture, as it is the core of the Israeli emotional need. It is a statement, echoing a social idea, which does not tolerate an abstract existence alone – it is embodied in an object, a physical memorial”. (Adam Baruch, Secular Sculpture, Kibbutz Me'uhad Ed.)
Kafri's first memorial stands in Nahalal, where he lived. He was commissioned to commemorate the boys of the settlement, killed in the War of Independence, 1948. Ever since then he became a sculptor of memorials and his life's history has been interwoven in the history of Israel and its wars. Mordehai Kafri 1951
Bereavement is an inseparable part of wars, and the loss of young lives is combined with a basic instinct of commemorating, especially by bereaved parents. They want to see and touch the boy's names engraved in stone. The memorial stands in the center of Nahalal, at the end of a Cypress boulevard planted for that purpose. Both the trees and the stone emphasize the eternity of nature, as opposed to man's short life. The memorial, built in 1951, is made of basalt, reaching 4.5 meters in height. Out of the stone emerges a boy, leaning on a tip of a plough/shield, symbolizing youth, innocence and purity, and the bond to the land. After this memorial Kafri has been working for 40 years, day and night, in the course of commemoration.
In 1971 he constructed the memorial for the soldiers, who had died defending Haifa in 1948. It stands on Mount Carmel, surrounded by trees and rich vegetation, overlooking a breath-taking view of the blue sky and the sea. The huge Basalt stone, weighing 40 tons, rises 3 meters high. The stone and the view – were both created by nature, and here comes the artist-man and dares to interfere with this creation by quarrying in the stone a 1.8 meters aperture, through which the landscape is revealed, immortalizing man's conquest against the eternity of nature. The window is divided in the middle by the emblem of the defending forces - a sword and olive leaves.
Dalia Meiri – 1951 Meiri is Israeli born, sculptress. In the wild memorial scenery she excels in her unique, original philosophy, originating from her childhood landscapes – "A landscape shaped by massive processes for millions of years, unlike me – a person, an artist – a very specific individual, with a short past. My sculptures are a projection of my impressions, feelings and desires on the landscape". Dalia Meiri 1977
She attempts to blend into the landscape, by using materials found on site. She is attentive to ancient human cultures and follows them. In her perception of the essence of commemoration, she focuses on the landscape itself, by creating a place of commemoration for the families, in which they can feel the serenity, bond with their memories and let the landscape's beauty sooth them and replenish their power of life.
The Moledet Memorial Site – 1977 This site was intended to be a gathering place on Memorial Day, and a commemoration site all year round. The underlying idea for the circular plan of the site was of an intimate ceremony, with people facing one another, in a circle, and behind them the open view. All this creates a dialogue between people and between them and the landscape. Dalia Meiri 1977
The effect of landscape on man cannot be measured, yet there is some mystic effect. In the Moledet memorial site there is an extra feeling of belonging to a certain society, home, land, and everything they imply. Following this gathering, people's behavior changes too, and an openness and empathy develop between them. The choice of material – Basalt stones - was dictated by what was found locally. All the elements combine with an ancient culture of human gathering circles. This link evolved unconsciously – maybe due to an ancient historic code imprinted in us. The circle is the simplest manner of gathering, containing meanings related to the cycle of life and burial rituals. The first gathering circle known in history was created already in the stone age – Stonehenge in England – a first example of culture being part of landscape. The mystery of this ritual site, with its giant stones, has not yet been solved.
Bet Zera Memorial Park – 1987 The Bet Zera Memorial Park, as I see it, combines commemoration with all year round community activities. It is a serene natural gem, with vast lawns surrounded by tropical plants, dotted with sculptural structures of white chalk stone. Dalia Meiri 1987
The commemoration area includes three triangular blocks of rock, in one of which the names of the fallen are engraved. The Basalt structures are made of vertical and horizontal units, balancing one another. The Basalt and chalk blocks link up to create the park. Dalia Meiri's unique concept of commemoration is perfectly expressed in this memorial park. On one hand it is a memorial park, with all the elements allowing a man to remember and commemorate, yet the greatness of the park is that it immortalizes life, rather than death. The park is alive, dynamic, with an emphasis on community activities – positive thinking, allowing the pleasures of life in nature, a clear emphasis on the continuity of life, at the same time respecting bereavement.
Yigal Tumarkin – 1933 "My work is a race against time and death" – this is the motto of Tumarkin – one of the mainstays of Israeli contemporary art. This declaration is supported by the huge volume of his work. Tumarkin uses waste materials, scrap iron and other weapons as raw materials and as inspiration for his work. For 50 years he has been burrowing his subconscious, retrieving waste materials, into which he casts cultural and spiritual contents. He chose to translate destruction into a personal artistic utterance, a social protest paving new roads in Israeli art. Yigal Tumarkin 1991 Berlin
The 'Big Chief' Memorial, Kiriat Shmona – 1968 The memorial, with its three tanks, painted in basic colors – red, yellow and blue, is an expression of the increasing militancy in the Israeli society following the Six Day War victory (1967). Although Tumarkin, whose use of weapons and other instruments of destruction referred to "toys of horror" as an allegory and protest – the first connotation upon seeing the tank is its being an instrument of war, destruction and death. Yigal Tumarkin 1968
One could see in the use of weapons the ambivalence of Tumarkin's perception and soul. His work is a metal manifesto against the actions of metal. A paradox: Scrap fire-arms, broken tools of war are a means of struggle for peace. Fighting against cruelty, violence and destruction requires the use of the same means of violence. We can find here an accord of dissonance, a wish to prevent war by war. Tumarkin's memorials can be regarded as a protest and fight against violence and wars, or– an expression of militant violence. His memorials have, no doubt, had an effect on the commemoration culture in Israel. Yigal Tumarkin 1968
George Mosse, a world renowned historian of European commemoration culture, found that the memorial for the fallen of the Jordan Valley, built by Tumarkin in 1972, just off Jericho, is a symbol of repulsive militancy. The black steel barrel, made of fire-arms, bursts through white walls, protruding 21 meters up, is a proclamation of erupting violence with sexual associations. The structure rules the landscape, instead of blending into it. It is forceful, expressing the conqueror's power. Yigal Tumarkin 1972
The Holocaust and Revival memorial, Tel Aviv, 1971–1975 The monument is constructed of two pyramidal forms of which one is up side down, forming the David Star.The monument is constructed of corten steel. In 2004 Tumarkin was awarded the Israel Prize for his work. Yigal Tumarkin 1975
Summary I wanted to open a small window and explore from my point of view, as an artist, the issue of commemoration through sculpture works in Israel. There are thousands of memorials of various types spread all over Israel. Some are designed and planned by professionals, architects and sculptors, where as others were set spontaneously by bereaved parents, families and friends.
Israel has more memorials then any other country in the world. There is one memorial for every 17 fallen. In Europe, as per George Mosse's estimate, only one memorial was built for every 10,000 victims. This wish, to commemorate the fallen by a natural element, such as a stone, is understandable. The stone symbolizes primeval national strength. Other, more profound issues, such as the effect of memorials on social cultural state of mind, have not yet been explored.