Agro-Art explores the Israeli-Zionist agricultural ethos from the perspective of the 2000s, reflecting its changing status in recent decades. Israeli agriculture is measured not only in terms of landscape, food, and ecology; it is intricately and profoundly infused with ideology. Its being bound up with a redemptive aspect of a return to the body, to nature and labor, has provided it with the status of a formative ethos in Zionist rhetoric, while its appropriative territorial power and its being a major national tool of population dispersion into remote border areas, alongside its function as the supplier of fresh, quality food, has earned it a supportive state policy. Since the mid-1980s, however, the governmental perception that agriculture must be protected at all cost has gradually eroded in favor of the manipulative use of lands and a free market economy. The body of knowledge has been cut off from the land, agriculture abandoned the farmer, technological efficiency and the rising prices for water and labor reduced the number of people working in agriculture. Today, the agricultural produce is thriving, but many orchards have been transformed into residential neighborhoods; the tomato has replicated itself in a broad spectrum of hues and species, an emblem of technological sophistication, but the traditional farm is disappearing; the Israeli farmer, identified with historical agriculture, has ceased watering, given up picking, and bid farewell to his land, without a next generation to continue his enterprise. Together with him, a rich culture of knowledge, language, gestures, and actions departs the stage of history.
The twelve installations comprising the show range between an intimate-poetic statement rooted in personal memory and an agricultural agenda, and a socio-political attempt to analyze the power mechanisms at work in the agricultural arena, in the Israeli and the Israeli-Palestinian spheres. The field, the greenhouse, the neglected orchard, real-estate land, vineyards and olive groves—all stand out as charged sites. The cosmic tension between heaven and earth, and between rain and drought, becomes clear vis-à-vis the aging figure of the farmer, and next to him—his successor, the foreign Thai worker. Agriculture emerges as a gene pool of survival awaiting the time to act, and as an active agent of land appropriation in the Occupied Territories. From another direction, it is revealed to be an original, resourceful field of research. The "archive" accompanying the exhibition sheds a fleeting light on the nucleus of the original ethos from the state's first decade, exposing the return of agriculture to the focus of attention of several avant-garde artists in the 1970s. Sisyphean and rife with danger like agriculture, art identifies these transformations and asks questions.
With the Support of The Jacob and Malka Goldfarb Family Charitable Foundation, Inc