Staring Back at the Sun: Video Art from Israel, 1970-2012

Image Credit: Rona Yefman [and Tanja Schlander], still from Pippi L. Strongest Girl in the World! at Abu Dis, 2006/2008, video. 3:43 minutes.

Video, possibly more than any other form of communication, has shaped the world in radical ways during the past half-century.

Its dual “life” as an agent of mass communication and an artistic medium is especially intertwined in Israel, where artists have utilized video as a way to respond to its use in the mass media and to the reality it mediates. As Israel’s internal politics and conflict became more visible on television, in film, and on the streets in the late 1990s and early 2000s, video art in Israel came into its own. Beginning in the 1990s and flourishing today, this “renaissance” can be traced back to works that were made in the 1970s — works rarely presented outside Israel — and is evident in more recent works as well. An examination of these works offers valuable insight into the ways in which art and culture are intertwined with larger societal forces.

Staring Back at the Sun: Video Art from Israel, 1970-2012 highlights work by artists whose perspective on the cultural and political landscape in Israel and beyond is both critical and challenging. Showcasing 35 works, this program includes documented performances, films, and videos, many of which have never been seen outside of Israel until now. The program surveys the development of the moving image in Israel and explores how artists have used it to examine the unavoidable and messy intersection of art and politics. Divided into four historical and thematic sections that were curated by three curators and one artist, Staring Back at the Sun sheds light on the unique ways in which artists have used the materials and resources available to them in order to investigate the concrete and symbolic states of forced separation between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens and to explore the intimate relationship between personal identity and the meta-narrative of Zionism.

All programs introduced by Joshua Simon, co-founding editor of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa based Maayan publishing, and editor of Maarvon (Western)-New Film Magazine


This program is presented in conjunction with Yael Bartana: And Europe Will Be Stunned at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, on view through January 1, 2019.

Staring Back at the Sun: Video Art from Israel, 1970-2012 is produced by Artis and made possible with lead support from The Andy Warhol Foundation. Additional support has been provided by the Russell Berrie Foundation, the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, Rivka Saker and Uzi Zucker, and Donald Sussman.

Staring Back at the Sun: Video Art from Israel, 1970–2012

About the Curators:

Yael Bartana is a Berlin-based artist best-known for videos that explore the relationship between documentary and fiction. Her work engages with cultural and collective identity in relation to social phenomena such as ceremonies and rituals.

Sergio Edelsztein is Director and Chief Curator of the Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv, which he founded in 1998. He has curated numerous exhibitions in Israel and internationally, including Israel's pavilion at the 24th São Paulo Biennial (1998) and the Israeli pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2005 (featuring Guy Ben-Ner) and 2013 (featuring Gilad Ratman).

Avi Feldman is an independent curator and writer based in Tel Aviv, Berlin, and Dresden. He was the Director and Co-curator of Vdance International Video and Dance Festival at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque for three years. He has also served as Associate Curator for avant-garde film at the Jerusalem International Film Festival and has curated several exhibitions at the Petach Tikva Museum of Art.

Ilana Tenenbaum is an independent curator based in Haifa, Israel. She has served as the Chief Curator of Contemporary Art at the City Gallery in Kfar Saba, Israel, and was the Founding Director and Curator of the New Media Center at the Haifa Museum of Art. Her curatorial work focuses on the research and documentation of video art, and includes projects such as Videostoria, the first exhibition series to systematically survey the history of the projected image in Israeli art.

Chen Tamir (Organizing Curator) is Curatorial Associate at Artis and Curator at the Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv. She was recently recognized by both artnet and Artslant as one of the world’s up-and-coming curators.

About Artis


Artis is an independent nonprofit organization that supports contemporary artists from Israel whose work addresses aesthetic, social and political questions to inspire reflection and debate.

About Us:

Artis was founded in 2004 with the goal of amplifying international recognition of artists from Israel. Starting off as a series of public events timed with New York’s Armory Show, the organization’s scope organically expanded to include programs that invest in artists and cultural exchange. We raise our annual budget without governmental funds through the generosity of individuals and foundations that share our values. Artis is based in New York and Tel Aviv.

Our Values:

  •  We believe that artists generate transformative experiences and ideas that are essential to local and global culture, and to our rapidly changing world.
  • We support living artists of any religion, ethnicity, race, gender, political persuasion, or additional national identity.
  • We support freedom of speech and artistic expression for all people.

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