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A conversation with Guy Yitzhaki, photographer

by harry June 15 2008

Guy Yitzaki

Guy Yitzhaki, photographer and video artist, is a founding member of the Jerusalem art collective Hagigit, a group dedicated to creating and encouraging interdisciplinary art activities in Jerusalem. Through exhibitions, street performances and cooperation with artists in different mediums and with the local community, Hagigit strives to bring art to a wider public audience. Hagigit first caught Jerusalemite's eye this past Independence Day when they constructed a temporary outdoor studio in Gan Sacher (Sacher Park) for the afternoon and photographed complying and curious passersby. The resulting photographs capture everyday people enjoying the opportunity to participate in - and become themselves - art. Yitzhaki was born in Jerusalem, received a B.Sc. in Mathematics and Computer Science from the Hebrew University and after a few years of slaving away in the high-tech industry he decided there was more to life; so he pursued his interest in photography and enrolled in Jerusalem's Naggar School of Photography, Media & New Music (the "Musrara School"). While studying there, Yitzhaki met other like-minded Jerusalemites and together, they formed the Hagigit. Yitzhaki still works part-time in high-tech, but his passion remains photography.

Tell us about the Hagigit collective and how you came together? The Hagigit collective is made up of eight recent graduates of the Musrara School of Photography. After studying together for three years, a group of us felt that we enjoyed working together, that working as a group allowed us to achieve more collectively than individually and that way we could also utilize our different strengths better. Each of us remains active independently as well, in his or her own fields of art.

How do you feel your collective relates to Jerusalem or reflects something specific about Jerusalem? A project like this in Tel Aviv would be considered typical, no? One of our main goals as a group is to encourage artistic activities in Jerusalem. In comparison with Tel Aviv, Jerusalem has a much more varied population, large parts of which are not exposed to art as part of their everyday life. This makes it much more of a challenge but also more rewarding for us to hold such an event in Jerusalem.

Do you feel the Jerusalem arts scene is experiencing a recent revival? Are there other collectives or Jerusalem-based artists you're working with? For some years now, the Jerusalem art scene has been struggling but surviving without support from the municipality or other formal establishments in a somewhat underground mode. However, the activity that is going on is by far more interesting and non-commercial than what is going on in Tel Aviv. The best example for this is the Hearat Shulayim (Note in the Margin) events organized by the Sala-Manca group whose events influenced the entire Israeli art scene.

How would you classify the typical Jerusalemite, and whom do you hope to involve in your projects? Jerusalem is a poor city comprised of several groups that usually do not intermingle. Our hope and aim is to expose people who are not usually inclined to, to art. While trying to look for their friends, a young couple becomes art.

Would you say that the Hagigit cooperative is inspired by Jerusalem? How so? Since most of us live, work and create in Jerusalem, it definitely has an effect on what we do. I don't think we are necessarily inspired by Jerusalem, but we are definitely rooted in it. On Independence Day, for example, we went to Gan Sacher in the heart of Jerusalem to stage an outdoor studio. My first inclination on such a day was to avoid Gan Sacher at all costs, since it is incredibly noisy, crowded and full of smoke from barbecues. But going there and doing something there that was an interesting and aesthetic experience for us and for the people who participated, and, later on, the people who look at the pictures, is the essence of art in my opinion.

How do you choose which events to celebrate or recognize with your public art projects and where to hold them? So far, we have chosen events where people gather outside but not as part of an official organized celebration where the city uses fireworks and such and people expect to be entertained.

Do you advertise the events to the general public - on the radio, in the newspaper or online - or wait for people to happen upon them. And why or why not? Until now we haven't advertised ourselves but waited for people to stumble upon us. In the future, I hope we will be more organized and advertise ourselves at least online, through our website, and other similar sites.

Self-portrait courtesy of Guy Yitzhaki and photo of couple in Gan Sacher courtesy of Hagigit.

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