“Shomer” Dor Zlekha Levy Solo Exhibition
Dor Zlekha Levy
Hamidrasha Gallery, Tel Aviv
Opening Reception: Thursday September 5, 2019 at 8PM
Sept 5 – Oct 19, 2019
Curated by Avi Lubin
A few years ago Dor Zlekha Levy found a photo from 1975 showing two armed, masked men, standing in front of the Magen Avraham synagogue in Wadi Abu Jamil, the jewish quarter of Beirut. They were PLO militias, who during the Lebanese civil war guarded the synagogue and the Jewish community. A few years later, during Israel’s Lebanon War, the synagogue was bombed by the IDF. For more than 20 years it stood abandoned and destroyed, exposed to the elements, and just in the last years was rebuilt and restored. In the absence of a Jewish community in Beirut, it functions as a sort of museum, with limited entry and advance coordination.
Zlekha Levy studied the building’s past and present through the various historic events and their impact on the Jewish community in Lebanon: from its construction in 1925, through the Lebanese civil war, Israel’s Lebanon War and the Israeli army’s advance into Beirut, and to the recent reconstruction with funding from the Jewish community in the diaspora and the support of the Lebanese government and Hezbollah. He built an archive of information, based on a collection of hundreds of photographs, including some taken by Micha Bar-Am during the Lebanon War. Meanwhile, he interviewed people who visited the synagogue over the years, who described to him personal memories and experiences from the building.
From the archive materials he collected, Zlekha Levy constructed a layered projection installation, especially designed for the two-story space of Hamidrasha Gallery. He dismantled and reassembled the synagogue’s spaces (the facade, the internal courtyard, the main prayer hall, the windows, and the women’s section), to explore concepts such as authenticity and preservation, and their relationship with memory. The spectator’s movement in the space activates and reveals different layers of the projection, presenting moments in the synagogue’s complicated history.
Visitors to the exhibit walk around its two stories while listening to a soundtrack through wireless earphones. The soundtrack is a kind of guide to wandering through the synagogue/the projection installation, based on an interview by Zlekha Levy with Isaac Balaila – a Lebanese-born Israeli, who recalls his memories as a child who grew up in Beirut and as an Israeli soldier who returned to his city of birth during the war, and went back to visit the synagogue. He talks about the gap between his memory of the site as a Jewish-Lebanese boy and his reacquaintance with it as an adult Israeli soldier. At two points in the exhibit the sound coming through the earphones merges with the video projected in the space, as if it were a reminder that there is a gap not only between the memory of a child and the reality encountered by the adult soldier, but also between memory, fantasy and nostalgia. Out of that gap Zlekha Levy created a video work, based on 3D images of the synagogue building, at different stages of preservation, created on the basis of the photographs he saw and the stories he heard.
Every evening at dusk, additional works are projected on the gallery’s glass windows, for viewing from the street level. The installation “Facade,” on the entrance level, stays on all night, inviting passersby on the street to approach and look through the gallery’s transparent front. These works bring the synagogue into the public sphere, create an additional way to view the exhibit, and blur even more the boundary between memory and illusion.
“Shomer” was produced with the support of the Israel Lottery Council For Culture & Arts and the Yehoshua Rabinovich Tel Aviv Foundation for the Arts.