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Agro-Art

Contemporary Agriculture in Israeli Art. Curator: Tali Tamir 19.2.2015 - 13.6.2015

“How does a man, a farmer, and this is significant,
all of a sudden detach himself from the element of rain?”

Dov Heller and Yaacov Chefetz’s joint project, North-South / Rainfall Region / Exchange, proposed to follow the amounts of rainfall throughout the country, from north to south, and translate the objective data into an internal reality based on their being farmers. The artists’ point of departure was their different places of residence: Chefetz then lived in Kibbutz Eilon near the Lebanese border, whereas Heller lived (and still lives) in Kibbutz Nirim in the Western Negev. The two likened the climate difference between north and south to the tension between a blessing and a curse, between drought and rain, and between security and tranquility, on the one hand, and anticipation and tension, on the other. To a large extent, Rainfall Region is also a map of the psychic fabrics of the inhabitants of north and south. It inquires: What is the difference between life in an area rife with water and precipitation and life in a barren area with little water? The regional rainfall map presented in the project proposes a geographical division which ignores political borders, and binds Israel and its neighbors together, and with them—also the farmers of these countries, in a similar psychic-agrarian state of mind.
For the project, Chefetz and Heller embarked on a two-person journey from Eilon to Nirim. They installed signs indicating the amounts of rain measured at different points along the route, built various rain gauges, and gathered data from the Meteorological Service. One of the high points of the project was an act of exchange between the two artists: Heller made a rain gauge in Eilon, while Chefetz erected an aqueduct in Nirim. The project also raises aesthetic questions pertaining to landscape conventions and the attempts by desert kibbutz members to grow a green landscape based on irrigation: “We have built a mini-environment for ourselves here which does not really belong to the place,” says Heller. “We came and raped. […] Who says loess expanses are not as beautiful as lawns?”
The project was presented at the Kibbutz Gallery, Tel Aviv (1979), the Jerusalem Artist’ House (1980), and Haifa Museum of Art (1981). The gauges, precipitation maps, journey reports, and two films juxtaposing the overflowing water in Eilon Stream with a flash flood in Nirim, were spread on the data table. Chefetz: “I belong to the physical state of the northern environment. There is a sense of contentment, expectations are met, summer, winter, the seasons and their fluctuations—all is expected and there are clear data about each season. […] A person sits at home up to 80 days due to rain; it is a physical condition which embeds a sense of permanence.” / Heller: “I have this graph: starting from around October I have expectations, […] I enter into a period of alertness. It is not just mere expectation, […] all year round I have an occupation, roulette. The issue of drought is the problem, not the technical solution [of irrigation…]. The disappointment is not only economic; it is an enterprise that belongs to you, to your soul.”


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Yaacov Chefetz & Dov Heller, North-South / Rainfall Region / Exchange (reconstruction), 1979-82 / 2015, Wood, metal objects, printed matter, signposts, screening, and photographs

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