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Petach Tikva Museum of Art presents Ofakim. Yosef-Joseph Dadoune

The Petach Tikva Museum of Art presents Ofakim. Yosef-Joseph Dadoune, an exhibition on view through 26 May 2012.

Yosef-Joseph Dadoune, “Ofakim,” 2010, video

In the past twelve years, the work of artist and filmmaker Yosef-Joseph Dadoune has emerged from and alluded to his childhood town of Ofakim. Ofakim is one of the instant towns that emerged in the area during the state’s nascent days, the product of “social engineering” which cast thousands of immigrants into the dead of wilderness, often against their will; a city in which wages are still among the lowest in the country.

In 2009 Dadoune launched the In the Desert project in Ofakim; an ongoing process of social-artistic activism combining the local community, aimed at activating and empowering it culturally and socially. The exhibition “Ofakim” spans works in diverse media from the project, some were created in collaboration with Ofakim youth for whom Dadoune initiated education and enrichment programs. As part of the project, Dadoune produces films, collects archival materials, initiates guided tours, invites journalists, and tries to harness as many people as possible to deliver Ofakim from its status as a “non-place.”

Dadoune’s activity spans multiple channels: artistic practice, initiation of pedagogical and enrichment programs for youth, a research semester for students of architecture-related fields which spawned proposals for rehabilitation of buildings in the city, and the jewel in the crown: the Of-Ar Project, promoting the transformation of the deserted, monumental textile factory which collapsed in 1988, into a new type of community space, reusing the building without destroying or renovating it.

The Of-Ar Project, whose model will be presented in the exhibition, is an extensive architectural project carried out by Dadoune in collaboration with Efrat-Kowalsky Architects and local entrepreneur and social activist Yitzhak Krispel. The project proposes design and construction of a new type of community space based on a combination of social initiatives, cultural creation, and commercial activity. The “cultural hothouse” to be erected on site leaves the building as is—a multipurpose culture compound and a platform for unique relations between culture, leisure, employment, and business, based on recognition of the ability of art and architecture to influence social life.

Through critical scrutiny of the products of the Zionist melting pot, Dadoune’s activism endeavors to introduce a different social-cultural agenda. As part of a comprehensive program to empower youth and enhance their sense of belonging to the place, Dadoune worked with a group of youngsters in diverse enrichment workshops (yoga, dance, cinema, acting). Some of the participants were cast as actors in the video Ofakim (2010).

The film begins with the youth standing in “freeze” positions inside the Of-Ar factory, as if they were standing at attention in memory of its running days. It continues with a Sisyphean procession, which invokes the cooperative spirit prevalent in the early days of settlement, while at the same time triggering military hazing. Dadoune establishes a symbolic community, which embodies the historical drama that began with wandering in the desert and ended with settlement and estates. The film’s ending, however, once again dissolves the route toward the desert’s visions of nothingness, as a metaphor for Ofakim’s desperate state. In another film in the exhibition, In the Desert (2009), Dadoune buries the identifying landmarks of the Zionist enterprise of “conquering the wilderness”—a palm tree and a cypress tree—in the ground. With bitter irony, he thereby alludes to the burial of the settlers who were cast to the frontier regions in the name of the “cloak of concrete and cement” vision and became pioneers against their will, a-priori ascribed to the social margins. In the series of films Horizon Fragments (2009), Ofakim is revealed as a ghost town where time has frozen.

Petach Tikva Museum of Art
30 Arlozorov St., Petach Tikva, Israel

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