art factory

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one of the many almond trees we saw blossoming

Thursday was one of those unpleasant winter days in Jerusalem. Dark clouds hung over the city as the temperature rose to a high of 24° by mid day. Noga and I had gone out to look at the newly blossomed almond trees, despite the weather, and by noon, we were looking for a place to have a couple of beers, and maybe something to eat. She suggested we visit the factory, a local art project organized in an abandoned old house, in the middle of Jerusalem. It seemed a good place to take a break. Empty House is a cooperative of idealistic young artists who wish to offer space in which to work to other artists, and also to contribute something to the contemporary scene in our city.

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the kitchen and restaurant at the factory

As to the front yard, had it been intended as a vegetable garden… to go with the vegetarian restaurant inside, or was it an artistic statement without having to rely on history? in any case, there’s an abandoned hole in the middle of the front yard amidst the bushes, and a few garden tools thrown in. Next to the hole, you can find the bottom half of the gardener sticking straight out of the ground, fully clothed, as if the ground had half swallowed him.

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don’t despair, dear gardeners

The fence that borders the courtyard has a naive ‘back to nature’ theme punctuated by the bicycle parts that landed on the chain link fence above the more traditional stone. And peeking through, across the narrow alley that separates between the houses, we can see the building style typical of our city; houses built of stone, metal shutters. It’s already part of the past. But they’ll last a long time till they’re replaced.

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In the central room there’s a sort of fountain… maybe a goldfish aquarium…. for the fish are certainly there… where once stood a statue of a fully dressed woman, looking to the side, her hands in her pocket, her hair piled over her head… sadly, only her legs remain. But we have the consolation of watching the goldfish swim around as we await our lunch. There are two choices: yellow curry rice with cabbage and cauliflower and rice with beans. We ordered both of the plates on the menu, and the food was satisfactory.

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Along the hallway, between the kitchen/restaurant and the main room, I found a very interesting white board with a great number of illustrations of the artistic caliber you might find in an ancient cave. But if the art was a bit amateurish, it should stand forever as a testament to freedom of expression. Up on top towards the left, you may recognize the flag of Israel. But instead of the star of David in the center, it has the symbol of the shekel, which is the basic currency of our country. To the right of that is “the factory” which is the name of the venue. And under that is the picture of an ambulance, police, and fire department coming from right to left. On the left is the hand holding the sling shot, and under that are the numbers you call for ambulance, police or firemen and after that, ‘cultural terror attack’, with a question mark after that.

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Yesterday and today we’ve had rain. The temperature has gone down to normal for winter. The air has been cleaned. And in the very same area of town that we visited on Thursday, we had an entirely different adventure just yesterday…. but knowing how easily the past is forgotten, I wanted to jot this down before it was lost in the past…

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46 responses to “art factory

  1. Nice pics and well expressed

  2. Dear Shimon, I enjoyed sharing your visit. The place has a feel of creative energy, yet also not ‘fixing’ things, just letting them be. ❤

    • Yes Jane, it’s really an interesting place, and it does have this interweaving of personal improvements by the art communal that keeps it going, without the obsession about getting the place presentable. I’m sure that as time will go by, it will have more and more of a very unique personality. I took quite a few photos, and I will probably publish them soon. x

  3. I am always very taken with the slices of Jerusalem life that you show us, Shimon. And the immediate way you have written and illustrated this post makes me feel that I came along too on this happenstance outing. I’m ever drawn to these kinds of community gatherings, even when they seem a little discoordinated. Often there are all sorts of different energies to tap into, and somehow the spaces that host them provide the visitor with space – to think and feel different things from their usual repertoire of thoughts and feelings. If I were actually there though, I would have to get that garden going again – do something to match that wonderful frieze. Thank you also for the almond blossom.

    • I’m sure Tish, that if you were here you would give them some inspiration to develop the garden, if you found a common wave length with them. In such communities, luck plays an important part in the development of the community personality. There are a lot of good things happening over there. But they’re missing some important talents, and there are certain visible weaknesses. It’s possible they will attract those individuals who’ll be able to complement the early capacities of the group. Otherwise they will fall apart as many other communes did before them. Thanks for the comment.

  4. I would love to see the artist’s cooperative! Hope the weather improves- though I know Israel needs the rain

    • Yes, that was a difficult day… but not because of rain. I like the rain, and as you said, we do need it. Now the weather has gone back to a normal winter cool. Yesterday I took a walk towards evening, and it was cold enough to sting my skin, but I enjoyed it. It was refreshing. As a rule we have very comfortable weather here. Thanks Lisa for the comment.

      • When I was there in January 2002 it snowed- we had been indoors most of the day at Yad Vashem and came out to find the streets gridlocked and the snow coming down. We managed to get a cab but the driver said he was going home after dropping us off!

        • Yes it does snow at least half the winters… sometimes more than one a year. And it always presents a great challenge to transportation and electricity, but most of us love the experience. In 2013 we were without electricity for a couple of days and it was VERY cold, but looking back, I just remember the fun of it.

  5. Art is the most beautiful thing in our life… I also do believe it is the way of the peace too. Thank you dear Shimon, have a nice day, Love, nia

    • Oh Nia, there are so many beautiful things in this world, that it is hard for us to put our finger on one of them and say it’s most beautiful. But what I like about art is that it can integrates separate areas of our lives. It can weave together material objects with thoughts and whims… and sometimes add a pinch of emotion to enrich the broth. When people used to criticize me for smoking, I would tell them joking, that for me smoking was holy, because it allowed a person to transcend from physical to spiritual, leaving a wisp of smoke, impossible to grasp as a souvenir.

      • Dear Shimon, you made me smile with the ending part. But yes, you are right, there should be so many things that we could say, the most beautiful…. But you are the master dear Shimon, and I feel so lucky myself, just I want to hear you more, or to be near where you live… There is not any neighbour, any friend around me, like you. Thank you so much, as always so precious your words. Have a nice day and weekend, Love, nia

  6. Travelled much so far but never to Jerusalem, friend Shimon … but I will once the temple stands again … Love, cat,

  7. Thanks for sharing your day. A day of exploration is for the soul.

    • As I grow older John, I find myself turning inward. I spend more time in my home; more time in my own neighborhood. And this day was good because it got me to move out again. And there were a number of very good experiences. I’m looking forward to more day trips.

  8. Thanks for sharing the day with us. An interesting place, and I imagine one where every day is different. I hope the weather improves. (Here we are having snow on and off). All the best.

    • Snow sounds good, Olga. I don’t know if we’ll see any this year. But usually the weather is quite nice in Jerusalem, and we’ve already gotten back to normal winter weather, and it’s cold without being too cold, and I enjoy walking. The art commune was a good place to visit, and I have more pictures which I hope to post soon.

  9. I enjoyed all the vivid youth and energy in this post, and the overlay of your age, wisdom, and generous support of these artists and their attempts to find paths and witness their experience. Thank you, Shimon. It makes me happy to see your photos and read your impressions derived from these adventures.

    • I am sure you would have enjoyed the place Kitty. As you say there was youthful energy and idealism, and one of the nicest things about it is that it is a place still in the making. No one knows what it will be like in a few months. But I imagine that next year we’ll be able to recognize certain aspects of its character as having been here now… glad you enjoyed the post.

  10. Thank you, as always for taking us along with you. I enjoyed this rich experience of culture. Your photographs always bring a smile to my heart.

    • So glad you liked the visit, Kathleen. Even though these aren’t the type of days I like most for my photography, it was very good to get out a little, and I’m hoping to do more of that in the near future.

  11. The art I think what the new world see and experience. Shekel as the currency that is more useful to them than the teachings of David. Mind you, I see that the slingshot still in use when David killed Goliath.With the cooperative, instead of demolishing the building,in mind opinion, they did a good job of making use of the building. Blessings. Perpetua

    • Yes Perpetua, it is always heartbreaking to see a good house destroyed to make room for another high rise. And this one is a good house, and well built. When it comes to putting the shekel on the flag, I think these young artists were just teasing the general public. They would be the first to value the spiritual in our culture over money, and as we mature we realize that we all need a good balance between the material and the spiritual. Thanks so much for your comment.

  12. Hi Shimon. Nice to see you’re functional. I’ve lost mine.

    • Hi there Bob. Don’t despair. We never know what’s waiting for us around the corner. Just a year ago I had so much pain, and I was very weak to the point where I couldn’t think of anything better than to just die as soon as possible. And then I had a visit with my doctor, and he changed my medication a bit, and things started getting better. Aside from that, I remind myself from time to time of Stephen Hawking, the scientist who has become a great scholar and physicist despite being paralyzed in arms and legs. As long as there is life, there is hope for some sort of happiness… though sometimes it’s hard to come up with something good. You have my blessing and my friendship.

  13. A fine visual tour. A lovely description of your experience. Energy emanates from your photos/writing as they join to depict the unique cafe and gathering of artists. You have noted it before it is lost to history – and the tech abyss. Good to know there are still spots of reality, creativity of the mind and HANDS, and the freedom and joy of expression. Thank you for sharing, Shimon.

    • Seems to me you focused on all the right things, Myra. They are dealing with real life, working with their hands and doing their best to be creative from day to day. So I’m glad to celebrate with them, and share a visit with my friends. I’ll have to publish some more pictures from the art factory.

  14. The almond blossoms are gorgeous. Thank you for taking us along on your adventure. Fascinating.

    • Thank you Judy. I always dedicate a special day each year to appreciate the almond blossoms. And this year, because the weather and the visibility wasn’t all that good, I plan to take another trip like that. I love those flowers and almonds too, which I like to eat together with raisins. Glad you came along.

  15. In the midst of so much earnest creativity, I smiled to see that bit of retro human impulse in your last photo. I take it those are shekels (or coins of some sort) tossed into the goldfish pond. I wonder: did the tossers make a wish? did they think about their action at all? or did they simply give in to an almost primal impulse to make sacrifice? I’ve never in my life come across a fountain that didn’t have at least a few coins — and I’ve tossed a few myself. Interesting.

    I smiled at your title, too: “Art Factory.” The juxtaposition could provide a jumping off point for good conversation. It’s not quite an oxymoron, but the words don’t fit together perfectly, either.

    The menu sounds good. I wouldn’t mind a bit of curry rice right now, but all I have is the cabbage and rice. No matter — it’s time for sleep, anyway.

    • Yes those are shekels in the fountain, and I too get a kick out of seeing them. I don’t think I’ve ever thrown a coin in a fountain, but I have thrown a few into water wells… just to check if they had water or were dry. And it doesn’t surprise me in the least that you were sensitive to the irony in the title of this post. Which happens to be the name those very artists gave their project. But as I understand it, their intention was to stress the productivity they wanted to see from their venture. I had a good impression from the way they balanced their individuality with cooperation, and the kitchen seemed clean enough for me to eat there, which is not something I take for granted. The food was quite good, but a little hard for an old man. I would have cooked it a bit longer. But you don’t see many like me there. For most, I’m sure it’s fine.

  16. A most interesting post. Interesting place you went to – ‘Art Factory’.

    • It was quite interesting, Peter. That’s one of the advantages of a city. You go a few blocks in any direction and you can find new worlds. Always good to hear from you.

  17. Good morning Shimon, from a very grey London with low temperatures…nothing like your 24! Your description of the Art Factory was interesting and for me always enjoyable to see more of your City. The tress in blossom are a treat to see…..Enjoy the day – janet 🙂

    • Days like that are unusual. We enjoy good weather most of the time in Jerusalem, and yesterday I had a long walk in the cold, and my skin was stinging from the cold, but it was revitalizing. What’s important for me is the visibility. Though fog can be an aesthetic experience, what I love most are the clear days, with color and shapes that tell me stories. I’ll go out looking for almond blossoms again… I want to catch them on a better day. Thanks Janet. Wishing you too a very good day. xx

  18. Hello Shimon,

    Temperatures of 24 deg; If I assume that is Fahrenheit, then yes, that is cold, Brrr. If it is Centigrade, for us in the far north of Scotland, that could be delightful summer warmth! I am a little unsure, as later you mention that the temperatures went down to normal. It of course, raises the question of what we’re used to, since I know that you have different seasonal temperatures to us most of the time.

    The art commune was a very interesting mish-mash of individual ideas, ideas that are progressing and are likely to keep evolving. Does it have a ‘community feel’, or perhaps curiosity value? Maybe it’s both. I smiled at your assessment of the meal.

    • We only use Centigrade here in Israel. And you’re right, menhir… 24º is a very pleasant temperature. But since it’s usually between 5 – 12, when it is 10 degrees hotter, I’m dressed too warm, and I’ve gotten overly sensitive to temperature. Aside from that, when it’s that warm, there’s often a wind blowing from the desert which is not such a pleasure. As to the art commune, I love to see the fermentation of ideas and social arrangements among artists. Artists are by nature more individualistic than most, and rather self centered in many cases. To see them work together for the common good is an inspiration. And all the BS leads to the mutual fertilization of ideas. What fun.

  19. What a wonderful, bohemian place, how I wish I could have joined you there. We have lots of similar places in Liverpool, funnily enough, they are always vegetarian or vegan, always so relaxing and informal too. I would have opted for the cauliflower curry, it sounds wonderful to me! Your almond trees in bloom are just beautiful, I planted one a few years ago but I think our winter was too cold for it so I never saw it bloom. I imagine that blossom smells beautiful. Loved all these pictures. xxx

    • Oh what a shame, Dina. that you’ve never seen the almond trees bloom… which means you don’t enjoy the fruit either. I have a special love for those trees, but unfortunately don’t know the first thing about growing them, or what temperature suits them. They seem to do very well here. On the other hand, how nice that you have a lot of youthful artistic activity there in Liverpool. It sounds very good. Glad you enjoyed the pictures; more to come. xxx

  20. A nice slice of Jerusalem to see, book-ended with those gorgeous almond trees and the goldfish…lovely.

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