5731102289_5c25ee9523We went to the famous Magnes exhibit put on by the Bancroft library knowing very little about Jewish art. For some reason we imagined we would find Old Testament scrolls, archaic headdresses, clay jars ready to crumble and other ancient pricey pieces of biblical proportions, but nothing that would be relevant to today’s fast-paced, iphone based, ADD lifestyle. However, we are guilty of blaspheme because this exhibit would pique the interest of even the 10 statuses daily Facebook addict.

At the back of the exhibition room is a lonely door and once we entered it, our ears were the first to transition into a strange world. Sounds of birds, mixed with muffled voices, mixed with trains hit our ears so suddenly that we were for a moment very confused. The sounds were familiar and foreign at the same time. Then we skimmed the sign.  “Dissolving Localities … Creating a dialogue between Berkeley and Jerusalem … Emmanuel Witzthum.” We could read no more but the basics because our mind was elsewhere, still trying to make sense of the new-age sound waves that were drawing us further into the room.

There were three benches, all empty, and two large screens. Images were running into each other. Negatives and doublings created an eerie effect.  A car would seem to leave one screen and float into another, while a ghost-like man within a man, walked down the street and into his own negative image.

It was a blending of the old and the new. This virtual art exhibit combined images and sounds from Berkeley with those of Jerusalem. Suddenly a temple would appear and blend seamlessly into a modern Berkeley landscape, connecting and shaping our perceptions of the two areas. After a while, we could not see where one city began and the other ended. When we walked out of the room, Israel no longer seemed like some exotic far-way land, but like our home.

This piece, our favorite of the collection, is an artistic masterpiece worthy of our highest praise and appreciation. It will change the way you see the world forever, seamlessly dissolving the barriers between east and west. Afterwards, we wanted more “Dissolving Localities,” and we were in luck! This Thursday, March 15th at 6 p.m the artist Witzthum, who is a scholar in residence at the UC Berkeley Music Department, will be giving a lecture at the Magnes. We will most definitely be attending and encourage our fellow students to come as well! If you can’t come for the talk, at least take some time out of your busy schedule to see the piece and be transported into another world.

Image Source: World of Benjamin under Creative Commons

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