Europe at the Crossroads: Portes Ouvertes de Belleville & the Prè Saint-Gervais, Performers from Around the World — Artists Converge on Paris; Help the Arts Voyager be there

Parce que oui, la Culture française – comme d’ailleurs tous les cultures qui déferle vers Paris – appartient au monde qu’elle a si souvent rayonné, et il faut refusé de la laisse etre confiné et sequestré par les forces de l’Obscurantisme.

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 The Open Studios or Portes Ouvertes de Belleville  and those of the Prè Saint-Gervais, performers including Berlin’s Constanza Macras, Portugal’s Vera Mantero, a major exhibition devoted to Camille Pissarro paintings rarely seen in France, Belgium’s Alain Platel, Spain’s Israel Galvan, Crystal Pite — these are just a few of the major cultural happenings in Paris and environs this Spring that the Arts Voyager and Dance Insider will be able to cover with your support.

Many of you first read about these internationally renowned artists and events for the first time in English in our journals and, continuing our 20-year mission of bringing you stories not told elsewhere, we’ll also be reporting on Giulio D’Anna, a Netherlands-based Italian choreographer whose “OOOOOOO” is inspired by Zagreb’s “Museum of Broken Relationships,” and Jasna Vinovrski’s “Lady Justice,” addressing the relationship between justice and art. Speaking of art, we’d also like to bring you Yasmina Reza’s “Art” as interpreted at the Theatre de la Bastille by the pioneering Belgium theater company STAN . And of intersections between art and society, this year’s Chantiers (Building Projects) d’Europe festival at the Theatre de la Ville features countries in the front lines of the refugee crisis, notably in six short films from Greece addressing this topic and a public brainstorming session with artists from six countries. Most of all we’ll be able to bring you into the studios of the 200+ artists taking part in the Open Studios of Belleville — a neighborhood which in its very MULTI-CULTURAL contours and dimensions provides the best retort to the cloistered vision of French culture represented by the National Front. (We share the FN’s stated pride in traditional French culture; we simply argue that this definition is too limited and does not do justice to the grandeur and ouverture to the world that has always been French culture.) Click here to read our coverage of last year’s Open Studios / Portes Ouvertes de Belleville.

Already a subscriber or sponsor? Please forward this story to your colleagues. Want to become one? Contact us at paulbenitzak@gmail.com . Subscribers receive full access to our 20-year archive of more than 2,000 reviews by 150 leading artist-critics of performances on five continents, plus five years of the Jill Johnston Letter as well as Arts Voyager art galleries, film reviews, and travelogues from Paris, New York, and across the U.S.. Sponsors receive this plus advertising on The Dance Insider, and/or the Arts Voyager.

France, too, is at the crossroads. On May 7  the country will choose between the fear represented by the National Front and the hope and optimism represented by Emmanuel Macron. Between closure and opening. In the campaign between these two ‘cultures’ that has raged in this country for the past two years, CULTURE has been all but forgotten. (Among Macron’s refreshing ideas: More library hours.) With your help, we will be able to do our part in restoring some light to what has always been France’s principal calling card around the world. Our calling for more than 20 years.Many thanks and

Cheers,

Paul
artsvoyager@gmail.com

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Subscribe to the Dance Insider & Arts Voyager today for just $29.95/year or 29.95 in Euros and get complete access to our 20-year archive of more than 2,000 exclusive reviews of performances and exhibitions on five continents by 150 writers, plus Paul Ben-Itzak’s commentaries on the Paris and New York scenes, art, Jill Johnston & more. Just designate your PayPal payment in that amount to paulbenitzak@gmail.com , or write us at that address to find out about payment by check. Institutional rate of $99 or 99 Euros/year gets full access for your entire company, school, etcetera.  Sponsorships start at just $49/month and include placements like that above of DI sponsor Freespace Dance. Photo of Freespace Dance’s Donna Scro Samori and Omni Kitts by and copyright Lois Greenfield. Sign up as a sponsor before May 1, 2017 and receive a second month free. Contact paul@danceinsider.com .

Portfolio: Christophe Martinez/Genesis

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Christophe Martinez, Untitled #1, 2017. 146 x 115 cm unframed and without margins. Pigment print on paper.  Oeuvre unique. Copyright Christophe Martinez.

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NOTE DE PRESENTATION (English Translation Follows)

Textures et lumières: Sans affection particulière, ni volonté documentaire, les photographies produites sont issues de technologies hybrides…. Pour Christophe Martinez, la chambre photographique produit plutôt qu’elle n’enregistre. Penser, essayer, opérer, transformer, sous la seule réserve d’une recherche d’équilibre où n’interviennent que des phénomènes travaillés. C’est ainsi qu’une somme d’actions et d’expérimentations aboutissent à un d’accompagnement des techniques et des matériaux photographiques. Une forme de capillarité lumineuse par les lois fondamentales de l’optique, de la nature de la lumière, de la photochimie ainsi que des pratiques numériques. Ces différents protocoles échangent leurs répliques dans une danse à la fois élémentaire et sensible.

Christophe Martinez est né en 1978. Il vit et travaille à Paris. Pour l’artiste se sont les conditions de la photographie et les dispositions de la matière photographique s’imposent en premier. C’est dans ce cadre qu’il va développer des variantes de recherche et d’approfondissement autour des questions qu’il se pose.

 

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Christophe Martinez, Untitled #2, 2014 115  x 146 cm unframed and without margins.   Pigment print on paper.  Oeuvre unique. Copyright Christophe Martinez.

 

PRESENTATION:

(For the complete portfolio of 22 images, visit our sister site the Maison de Traduction.)

Textures and light: Without any particular pre-meditated inclination, nor any  specific documentary intent, the photographs produced result from hybrid technologies…. For Christophe Martinez, the darkroom produces rather than simply records. Reflect, attempt, operate, transform, with the sole condition being the search for an equilibrium where only methodically developed phenomena intervene. Thus a sum of actions and experiments leads to a marriage of techniques and photographic matter. A form of luminous capillarity arrived at by applying fundamental laws of optics, nature, and light, and with the use of both photo-chemical and digital processes. These different protocols dialogue in a dance at the same time elemental and sensitive.

Christophe Martinez was born in 1978. He lives and works in Paris. For the artist, it is above all photographic conditions and the disposition of photographic material that prime. It is in this framework that he has developed the variants of his research and the depth surrounding the questions that he poses.

(For the complete portfolio of 22 images, visit our sister site the Maison de Traduction .)

Curated by Paul Ben-Itzak.
Text by Christophe Martinez, translated by Paul Ben-Itzak.
Pour tout renseignment / For information contact :
Français: Christophe Martinez, christophemartinez.photographe@gmail.com
English or Français: Paul Ben-Itzak, artsvoyager@gmail.com

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Reading the writing on the wall (text): Beckmann in New York — When Brilliant Art meets Dull Presentation, or why Trump Tower isn’t the only sign of dumbed down cultural discourse on Fifth Avenue

beckmann-falling

Max Beckmann. German, Leipzig 1884–1950 New York, “Falling Man,” 1950. Oil on canvas, 55 1/2 × 35 inches (141 × 88.9 cm). Frame: 62 1/4 × 41 1/4 × 2 3/4 inches (158.1 × 104.8 × 7 cm). National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mrs. Max Beckmann. SL.9.2016.13.1. Wall text for the Metropolitan Museum exhibition “Max Beckmann in New York” has reduced the interpretive possibilities for this complex tableau, rich in mythological and historical references, to a sort of back to the future echo of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York. Image courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2016 Paul Ben-Itzak

I was all set to write about how refreshing it was to discover an exhibition, Max Beckmann in New York, whose curator, going against the trend in many leading Paris museums, does not feel the need to re-encadre a painter who should be able to stand on his own merit in an artificial curatorial construct that contrasts him with other artists or situates him, after the fact, in a historical, literary, or sociological context that has more to do with museum marketing than the artist’s actual intent and universe.

To access the rest of the article, including more images, subscribers please e-mail paulbenitzak@gmail.com . Not a subscriber? 1-year subscriptions are just $49, or $25 for students and unemployed artists. Just designate your PayPal payment in that amount to paulbenitzak@gmail.com , or write us at that address for information on how to pay by check or in Euros or British pounds.

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Starting today, all new Arts Voyager stories and art will be distributed exclusively by e-mail, to subscribers. Subscriptions are just $49/year ($25/year, students and unemployed artists), and include archive access to both the Arts Voyager and the 2,000-article Archives of The Dance Insider, our sister publication. To subscribe, designate your PayPal payment in that amount to paulbenitzak@gmail.com . Or write us to at that address to find out about other payment methods and about paying in Euros or British pounds. If you are already an Arts Voyager or Dance Insider subscriber, you are already signed up. Special Offer: Subscribe before December 15 and receive a second subscription for free — the perfect holiday gift for the Arts Voyager on your list.

Catch Him if You Can — Sharaf: The Flying Dancer from Ramallah

omar-sharafLeft: Sharaf DarZaid in action. Photo courtesy Sharaf DarZaid. Right: Laila Boukhari and Sharaf DarZaid of the El-Funoun Palestinian Dance Troupe. Photo by and copyright Osama Silwadi, courtesy El-Funoun.

By Omar Barghouti
Copyright 2007, 2016 Omar Barghouti

(Originally published on March 29, 2007.)

RAMALLAH, Palestine — Anyone who attends a performance by the El-Funoun Palestinian Dance Troupe cannot miss his outstanding stage presence — and not only because of his revealing eyes, distinguished height, olive complexion, and charming smile. Above everything else, Sharaf DarZaid captivates audiences with his exceptional ability to dance as if playing the music with his entire body… and soul; it’s as if the music has possessed him or, rather, as if he has possessed it, with skill, with distinctive talent, with passion.

Sharaf, with whom I’ve worked as trainer and choreographer for El-Funoun, was named after Sharaf at-Tibi, the first student martyr at Birzeit University, near the West Bank city of Ramallah. He grew up in a warm, caring family that cherishes Arab-Palestinian folk dance and music. During the 1948 Nakba, when more than 750,000 Palestinians were displaced and became refugees, Sharaf DarZaid’s family was uprooted from Beit Nabala, a village near Lydda. (Click here to read more about the Nakba.) Unlike the more than 400 villages that, by some accounts, were bulldozed by Israel at the time, Beit Nabala was spared — at least temporarily. The DarZaids and their fellow villagers paid regular, clandestine visits to their abandoned homes to recover whatever items they held dear. Sharaf’s great-grandfather, for instance, wanted more than anything else to retrieve his radio, one of only two in the entire village. In 1952, four years after the end of the war, Beit Nabala, along with other villages, was completely destroyed, effectively preventing refugees from returning and reclaiming their lands and possessions. As a twist of fate, the ruins of Beit Nabala later buzzed with airplanes flying from Israel’s main airport, which occupied part of its land, while one of the village’s sons, Sharaf, learned to fly in other ways — dancing!

Abruptly and violently cut off from their roots, their homes and their olive groves, the DarZaids settled in Ramallah, occupied by Israel since 1967, and had to start over. Ironically, their crushing sense of loss, injustice and devastation as refugees fuelled their sense of identity and triggered in them an inextinguishable desire for self-realization, for assertion of their humanity. Longing to return home was thus transformed from passive nostalgia into active energy, enhancing their self-esteem and transforming them from mere victims to conscious, self-determined subjects.

Sharaf’s father became a respected mathematics teacher in one of Ramallah’s elite schools; his mother graduated from Al-Quds Open University with a B.A. in social work. Together, they raised four special children, nourishing in them a profound awareness of their identity, a simple dream to become whole again, and a tenacious quest for freedom, equality and dignity. It is this particularly stimulating environment that nurtured in Sharaf his initial reverence for dance. Through dance, he narrated his innermost dreams; he counselled his tensions and fears; and he expressed his resistance to oppression, whether political or social.

Before becoming a dancer, Sharaf, like many Palestinian kids his age, growing up under the oppressive reality of colonial rule, felt a burning urge to participate in protest demonstrations against the Occupation. Only thus did he feel empowered… and free. Free to make his own decisions. Free to shout his guts out. Free to exercise his will in standing up to an overwhelmingly frightful foe. Free to prove to himself — and to his peers — that he would no longer accept the role of powerless victim.

Eventually, and after a struggle of sorts to convince him to quit the protests, Sharaf’s gravely concerned father convinced him to join his school’s traditional dance, or dabke group. (Dabke is a folkloric line dance characteristic of Arabs in the eastern Mediterranean region. It is based mostly on strong, lively and weighted stomps on the ground.) This did not deter him, however, from pursuing his street struggle. Sharaf, after all, has a natural inclination to be stubborn! Then talent and fate interfered. During the group’s first full performance, when he was just 15, Sharaf displayed all his exhilaration and flare, winning wide recognition as a dazzling performer, despite his then relatively diminutive figure. His father later told me that what touched him the most was “how Sharaf kept his head up all the time.” I was deeply impressed, too, but for more reasons. After consulting with my colleagues, I invited Sharaf to become a member of El-Funoun, Palestine’s leading dance company, enticing him by saying, “We shall waive the required audition for you to join!”

In El-Funoun’s youth group, Sharaf’s skills were sharpened and his talent matured. Even his size underwent a dramatic change: he became a tall and handsome — though still slim — young man. Ultimately, Sharaf managed to reconcile his patriotic motives and unrelenting youthful bravado with what he perceived as a new, equally needed form of resistance: dance.

After he grew up to join El-Funoun’s adult group, Sharaf bumped into a new style of dance that not only tried his talent but also challenged his artistic taste. El-Funoun was — and still is — experimenting with what it terms contemporary Palestinian dance, a genre inspired by and rooted in Arab folk dance, but in dialogue with universal techniques and influences, including several Western forms. Sharaf’s visible irritation with this ostensibly alienating and unfamiliar contemporary movement terrain soon gave way to an unwavering resolve to absorb the new forms with diligence, persistence and, crucially, patience. With such determination, it wasn’t long before Sharaf proved himself in this more modern realm, too, as a virtuoso to be reckoned with. Still, his true love was for dabke.

My first encounter as a choreographer with Sharaf came when I created a flirtatious courting dance that included a relatively daring duet for which I selected him and a vivacious female dancer, Laila Boukhari. Both Sharaf and Laila, as well as the rest of the young dancers, had difficulty learning several parts of the larger dance. But, with the duet, things went unpredictably smoother! The two were asked to touch each other by their foreheads; turn, while still in contact; and then rest their heads on each other’s shoulders. Admittedly, I intended this moment to capture the audience’s undivided attention and to slightly push the limits of what is acceptable, or tolerable, for an average Palestinian spectator. To my utter surprise, Sharaf and Laila nailed the movement, showed brilliant chemistry, and perfected the required expressive content in just one rehearsal. Later, during performances, I was stunned that all the whistling, cheering and applause this intimate moment inevitably generated among audiences never loosened the couple’s focus or distracted their fixed gaze in each other’s eyes. After some time, I was embarrassed to learn that I was the only one in El-Funoun who did not know that the two had been infatuated with each other for quite some time!

Besides being one of the main dancers — all are volunteers — of El-Funoun, Sharaf, who is now 19, is a student of finance at Birzeit University. He also teaches dabke to youth in Saffa — a small, picturesque village to the west of Ramallah — as part of a program organized by the Popular Art Centre, a leading community arts organization, in cooperation with El-Funoun. When I saw the Saffa group, Handala, perform last year, I was moved primarily by how the young novices respected what they were doing. They took themselves seriously, without losing their spontaneity and authentic character. They looked up to Sharaf, who is practically their age, as a role model, particularly because he developed a remarkable way of reaching their minds and hearts, without undermining the significance of the process of creating dance. Sharaf’s own respect for dance and for communicating through dance was a source of inspiration for them. Although he may lose himself in dancing, as if bypassing the stage, the audience, and all the boundaries to reach the sky, Sharaf never loses his grip on the music or movement.

Stirred by Sharaf’s budding talent, and feeling that perhaps I can contribute, even modestly, to his professional development as a dancer, I decided to choreograph a dance based on his biography and that of his namesake. I called it “Sharaf,” which has a nice connotation and ring in Arabic. When he first performed the piece before a packed theater in Ramallah last December, many in the 800-strong audience were mesmerized by his agility, versatility, and the complex mix of emotions Sharaf seamlessly exuded: bereavement, exuberance, separation, love, phobia, defiance, vulnerability, hope, and, of course, honor. His exceptional sense of musicality and rhythm helped him express this amalgam of conflicting themes with skill and a degree of self-confidence that is rare for his age group. “Breathtaking” was a common response from quite a few to this demanding seven-minute performance. Frank Weigand, a visiting German dance critic, told me, “Sharaf… could carry the whole performance only by his presence. He is a dancer with a big potential — and I think that he could become a very complex and multifaceted performer.”

Of all the touching moments in “Sharaf,” nothing quite strikes me as much as when Sharaf jumps so high that it’s as if he’s flying, soaring above all the wounds, the phobias, the injustices, and the fetters, into the promising horizon.