Mideast Hostages, Exiles Mix as Museum Examines Conflict

Two actors sit at a long table with tea, reading from works by two well-known poets: one Palestinian and the other Israeli.

A South Korean video artist stands motionless in the middle of a busy street in six conflict-ridden cities, the footage screened onto the walls of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art as part of the “Host & Guest” exhibition.

Tables are strewn with letters and postcards written to the museum director from people living in exile.

“Digging in Israel we found ruins of Palestine and digging in Palestine, we found Israel’s ruins,” says one letter.

“Each artist represented this idea of power, politics, history, in a different way,” says Steven Henry Madoff, who invited almost 40 curators and artists to participate. “The host is often the hostage and that led me to think about the troubling situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

Artists taking part hail from Brazil, China, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Italy, South Korean, Spain, the U.K. and U.S.

At different points throughout the museum as well as throughout Tel Aviv, graphic designer David Tartakover has left four posters from his “Baggage” series. The images touch on different aspects of the traveler’s sense of being welcome, or a distrusted guest in foreign places.

The event takes place as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accelerates efforts to get Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table they abandoned in September 2010.

“The complex relations between host and guest isn’t a new story,” said Madoff. “Here, of course, the contest over the land is also an old story and now is at a very tense moment.

“Who is the host and who is the guest depends on whose point of view you are hearing. There is no one answer.”

The show runs at the museum until June 30. Information: http://www.tamuseum.com

(Gwen Ackerman writes for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)

Muse highlights include Scott Reyburn on the art market, Warwick Thompson on U.K. theater, Farah Nayeri on Scene in London, Jason Harper on cars, Rich Jaroslovsky on technology and Lance Esplund on art.

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