After our 12 hour plane ride we started our Israel adventure in Tel Aviv with a graffiti artist named Elinoy. Elinoy was born in Israel and has two Russian parents. She began the discussion with asking us our first impression of graffiti – many of us answered that graffiti is illegal and dangerous. Elinoy continued to explain that graffiti artists don’t want you to be able to read their work, they simple don’t care because they write for themselves not for others. Elinoy told us that with graffiti you should stick to the saying, “honesty is the best policy.” With art you can say anything and especially with graffiti people have no idea who spray painted what. Graffiti is a way to also express social issues around the world. Walking down an alley, Elinoy pointed to the blue hebrew lettering sprayed on the wall and she explained the saying, “ god said women who sit on the bus should be spit on.” A woman spray painted this saying as a response to an incident that really happened.
Elinoy talked a lot about what it means to be a confident graffiti artist, I think it was most powerful when she said that the only person who can define if you’re a real artist or not is yourself. Graffiti artists like herself try to gain respect and draw a message and meaning in their work… and the more dangerous the project, the more respected the artists. Furthermore, she pointed out eyes that had been painted on the sides of the top of the buildings. She explained that this is supposed to be a symbol of being close to heaven, specifically since it is easy to fall to your death while painting the top of a building. Lastly, there was this one graffiti of Yitzhak Rabin assassination but it was really abstract and difficult to interpret what was going on. However, Elinoy explained the scene to us. In conclusion, I really enjoyed the tour despite the heat; Elinoy gave me a new perspective on the way art can be used and how different things can be portrayed in unique ways.
Throughout the past 10 days, our group has gone on walking tours, sat in on meetings with speakers, ate lots of Middle Eastern food but had never done a creative, artistic, hands-on workshop. So, hypothetically, today’s experience summoned the inner rule breaker in us all. Elinoy Kisslove had taken us on a walking tour of Tel Aviv’s graffiti covered streets and buildings on our first day of our trip. Since then, we were sent on a mission to find an inspiration for our own graffiti work. The workshop today consisted of popsicles, doing the graffiti work ourselves within an alleyway, and then voting on the two best graffiti to display on a bigger wall for the rest of the world to admire. Many of us did freehand designs, while a few worked with Exacto knives cutting out stencils. Elinoy has stunned Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities with her work and she challenged us to catch the attention of these people with controversial and even politically based artwork. In the end, you could see our opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and Middle East Conflict as a whole were addressed.
I loved this activity, and collaborating with another group member made it even more meaningful. Don’t worry Mom and Dad, I won’t be putting graffiti all over our house walls. For my graffiti, I worked with Adam Kahn to express our opinion of how people in not only Israel but the world coexist. I drew a stencil of the coexist design that has been circulating around social media, and Adam wrote in Hebrew, רק יהודים, which means Jews only. Once spray painted onto a surface, we covered the coexist with the Jews only. This work was meant to stimulate discussion, similar to another graffiti artist, Owen Ailam, whose work, we saw in videos and pictures. Another of the graffiti work, done by Sammi Freemont and Emily Axner was of the Hebrew word הי filled in with both the Israeli and Palestinian flags. This was one of the most compelling pieces of the work we did today so we decided to display it larger. Overall, this workshop was a nice end to an amazing trip to Israel and I was able to address the tough topics of Israel and the Middle East while expressing the creative side of myself.