|M.Sc Student||Hadas Ophrat|
|Subject||The Performative Space: Art Interventions in the Urban|
|Department||Department of Architecture and Town Planning||Supervisor||Professor Nitzan-Shiftan Alona|
|Full Thesis text - in Hebrew|
The study focuses as its prime case study on the Center for Digital Art in the Jesse Cohen neighborhood of Holon. This neighborhood was established in the early 1950s to house new immigrants, and suffered, since its foundation, from disenfranchisement and neglect. The demographic, economic and cultural characteristics of the local immigrant communities, the neighborhood's geographic isolation and social stigma are among the factors that led to its stagnation and neglect.
The study explores the Center's activity on both the administrative and the artistic levels. The Holon Municipality's decision to move the Center from its earlier location in the eastern part of the city to the heart of the Jesse Cohen neighborhood was a response to the social-communal orientation that had characterized the Center's activity since its founding (2001). This example appears to be Israel's most notable instance of cooperation between independent-artistic and institutional initiatives. Arguably, the activities of the Center for Digital Art since 2010 mount to a comprehensive, multi-systemic project featuring interventions in the public space and in the community. The Center functions as a kind of laboratory for assessing the artistic medium's potential to serve as an instrument of urban renewal and as a bridge between residents and the municipal establishment.
On the artistic level, the study examines four projects. This diverse selection makes it possible to study the modes of action adopted by different forms of artistic organization - individual and collective, Israeli and non-Israeli. Moreover, analyzing the four projects serves yet another purpose - that of assessing the tactics employed by art interventions so as to define the conditions for artistic activity in the public space. In recent years the Center has been devoting most of its resources to individual intervention in the community, rather than to the habitual large-scale municipal events. The Center for Digital Art has, in effect, begun to function as a space of action. This shows that art and cultural centers can themselves function as full-fledged public spaces - an architectural and communal situation characterized by accessibility, in which local residents share in the responsibility for ongoing content/activities and their operation.
The study concludes that the Center for Digital Art has adopted an activist approach, under the support and consent of the Municipal authorities. Activism need not come in the form of opposition or defiance, but that it can foster containment, partnership and mutual consent as a way of resolving or neutralizing conflicts. This insight also has implications for city management. While the Municipality does not intervene in the content or nature of the Center's ongoing artistic efforts, it is responsible for the strategic decisions that have affected the Center’s activity, including the decision to move it to the Jesse Cohen neighborhood.
The thesis conclusions also indicate that the activist/artistic approach has limited ability to leverage intervention and urban change initiatives over the long term; in most cases the artists are superseded by professionals in the spheres of urbanism, social service, welfare and education, with a gradual loss of impact for the artistic resource.