Ron Amir, an Israeli artist who focuses his works on marginalized communities, is now presenting his exhibition "Doing Time in Holot" at the Israel Museum (curator: Noam Gal).
"One of the issues that has concerned me the most in recent years," Ron says, "is the way in which marginalized communities react to the limitations that are imposed on them by political, economic and financial systems. I was interested to find out what happens in the curious instance of the ‘Holot’ facility."
In his current exhibition, Ron has expressed his concerns with a colorful collection of photographs and videos that show improvised "safe heavens" created by detainees for cooking, resting and social gatherings.
In a special event organized by JACC for community members and volunteers, Ron gave us, a group of about 30 people, a tour of his own exhibition. Many of the people in the crowd recognized the places shown in his art, and shared the stories behind the pictures with us.
Using a variety of languages, community members shared their memories of these places.
"It was important for me that representatives from the community came to see the exhibition and share their thoughts with me," Ron said when he explained his motivation behind inviting us to the museum.
Reactions to the exhibitions were mixed. Many community members were excited to see photographs of places they know so well on the walls of the Israel Museum.
Nonetheless, many were curious about Ron's choice to document only the facility's surroundings and not the facility itself, claiming that it is impossible to understand, through these short videos and pictures alone, what is happening inside the facility.
In addition, some members of the group were curious about the fact that asylum seekers themselves are missing from the pictures that showed only objects.
Reacting to these questions, Ron explained that the main purpose behind the choice to leave the asylum seekers out of the photographs was to create a certain atmosphere, as if these locations were a part of the desert scenery. His goal was to make people wonder how these improvised locations got there, and who built them and why, in order to spur critical thinking among the people who come to see the exhibition.
The tour was followed by a communal picnic, which gave the participants an opportunity to continue sharing their thoughts and asking questions.
Though there will forever be a gap between Ron's artistic choices and the way many who have experienced living in Holot might prefer to be represented, the exhibit provided the opportunity for meaningful discussions that allowed the voices of asylum seekers to be heard.
We look forward to following Ron’s future projects.